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Rockhampton Diocese's World Youth Day

from Rockhampton to Krakow

Day 16 – World Youth ‘Day’

Starting off from the last post, the Saturday night consisted of a vigil and Adoration. The Pope spoke to us for some time and delivered an insightful and humorous talk e.g. – ‘ The times we live in do not call for young “couch potatoes”, but for young people with shoes, or better, boots laced.  The times we live in require only active players on the field, and there is no room for those who sit on the bench.’

I encourage everyone to read it at http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/speeches/2016/july/documents/papa-francesco_20160730_polonia-veglia-giovani.html

This morning we gathered for Mass with the Pope with a reported 2.5 million people. Pope Francis’s homily continued the theme of yesterday’s talk reminding us that life is not meant to be lived in a box.

The heat today was oppressive, and a LOT of people were being treated for heat exhaustion(even one from our group). It was more than I even remember in Madrid.

At the end of Mass, Pope Francis announced that the next World Youth Day would be held in Panama.

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A lot of people were doing swaps and we were continually asked by the French and Italians if they could have our Australian flag. We declined.

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Once Mass finished we decided to wait until the crowd died down before leaving. A nearby Scottish group were leaving their tents there so let us take over the sight. Pope Francis may wish to re-read ‘Laudate si’ before the next World Youth Day because it created a lot of waste and people leaving stuff there(like tents).

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So we decided to take over the Scottish tents as we could see rain coming, however we were hit with a windy thunderstorm. The tents held up well.

We decided to head off once it cleared but ran into the storm again 30 mins into the walk home. Everyone were already wearing aches and bruises from the 15km walk the previous day so the heavy wet shoes didn’t help, but it did cool us down.

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We eventually got back to the uni after 5pm(Mass finished around 12pm) where we felt a sense of accomplishment with ‘weathering the storm’. It tied in well with Pope Francis’s message over the weekend that we were not made to be comfortable, we were made for greatness.

Day 15

What better way to start the day than Mass with your fellow pilgrims. 6am start so we could get on the road for our pilgrimage walk.  We did a coordinated attack – a tram team taking supplies and those who couldn’t manage the walk.  And a fast and slow walking team. The tram team arrived early to secure our place and the two walking teams made their way to fill the spot.

Currently there is entertainment and a lot of socializing going on. But it’s very hot and people are trying to make shade however they can. 

Jared is all set to represent us in the Special seating section, along with 6 others from our overall group. 

Technical issues are stopping is from uploading photos currently sorry

Days 13 & 14

Hi everyone.  We’ve had another big couple of days and some technical difficulties, which is why this is a bit slow sorry. 

Day 13 we headed to morning Catechesis with Cardinal Patita Pani from Tonga on the theme of ‘Let us be touched by Mercy’. There were a few thousand other English speaking pilgrims there. The basic message was a reminder to allow ourselves to be touched by the mercy of God, and in turn reach out to  others.

We had a little spare time in the city before heading to the Papal welcome. Along with about 1 million other people. It was raining again but it didn’t dampen the spirits.  

Yes the Holy Father did drive past us, but he did look our way.  He gave an excellent homily for young people on how to live their lives in Christ – not to be boring, not to act old, and be agents of change and mercy.  It was quite relevant to our young people. 

Today we made the decision to head back to the major English speaking centre at Tauron Stadium.  It was a good choice and were joined by around 15,000 other pilgrims. Who says young people aren’t interested in their faith! 

We had a wonderful talk by one of the Sisters from The Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy – the order St Faustina belonged to. She asked us to join in prayer for the victims and perpetrators of Auschwitz, as Pope  Francis was praying there today.  She asked us to hold our physical crosses in our hands, to remind us of Jesus’ sacrifice for us, for me, and to recommit ourselves to our crosses and Christ.

We then got to hear Cardinal Dolan speak again.  This time on ‘Being Instruments of Mercy’. I found two main messages in there  – Jesus made the Apostles agents of mercy, and now that had been passed to us.  Also from John Paul II  – ‘The law of the gift’. In other words – we are at our best when we give ourselves away.

This afternoon we went for the Stations of the Cross with pilgrims and locals.  We opted for the quieter option today, in the overflow park rather than braving the crowds again. It was a lovely relaxing afternoon.

The images with the stations spoke of what various arms of our church are already doing for works of mercy across the world. 

Across all talks there had been a theme that God freely offers His mercy and forgiveness.  No matter what we’ve done, or keep doing, he is ready and waiting to forgive.  We need to accept that though which a lot of people  struggle with.

It’s late and I’m tired sorry and have  less than 5 hours sleep before getting up for our main pilgrimage walk.  Our adventure is coming to an end.  But not over yet.

Jared Press, one of our pilgrims, has been selected for priority seating for the vigil celebrations with Pope. This is a rare opportunity and while he may not meet the Pope, will be sitting right up the front representing us all!

I apologise if the photos fail due to connection issues.

Day 12 – Catechesis

Today marked the first day of Catechesis. We were patiently waiting for it to start when the band started practising by playing death metal. The crowd was somewhat relieved when the instruments were handed over to the actual band who played normal praise and worship music(but at the same time disappointed at not experiencing Jesus death metal sing alongs).

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We were blessed to have Cardinal Dolan present a talk on – Now is the time of God’s Mercy
He talked about how we delay many things especially God’s invitations, but as St Augustine said – We’ll always have God’s mercy but we might not have tomorrow. Cardinal Dolan said World Youth Days are an excellent time to make decisions where we are surrounded by many like-minded people.

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After Catechesis we all split up to do different things. I climbed the bell tower in Old town of Krakow.

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After that we got on a tram to get an early seat at the Matt Maher, Audrey Assad and Bishop Robert Barron concert.
Since Getting to Poland I had been wanting to get to a board game shop to buy the Polish board game ‘Queue’. As we had 2.5 hours before the concert, I talked Gerard into coming for a short walk to a board game shop. Unfortunatley they didn’t have any copies of the game, even more unfortunately we got back with an hour to spare but none of the 2000 people outside Tauron Stadium were being allowed into the concert.

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We decided to head into Old Town and found some Polish girls were going to listen to the Pope addressing the crowd from his window. We got into the crowd but were unfortunately too far away to see His Holiness.

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After that we decided to check out a video game themed pub.

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Day 10 & 11 – World youth day week

Yesterday was a teary affair as we waived goodbye to our Polish host families and left for Krakow. Once we arrived in Krakow we had some free time to settle in before celebrating Mass in the foyer of Level 7. The accommodation is quite good however 1 toilet and 1 shower are shared between 9 people – but seems to be ok for us boys.

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Today we traveled to Tauron Stadium for the Australian World Youth Day Gathering. Unfortunately our tram collided with a car with 3kms left. Thankfully no-one was injured.

The Australian gathering was full of energy, great talks and relics of 5 Polish saints. We were reminded(in the words of Pope  Benedict) The world offers comfort but we were not made for comfort, we were made for greatness.

You can watch the whole gathering online at http://www.xt3.com/live/

We stuck out on the big screen in our white shirts(a little too much for my liking).

They made an exciting announcement that 2018 will be the Year of Youth in Australia(10 years on from World Youth Day Sydney).

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This afternoon was the official Opening Mass – the first time all pilgrims gathered together. The crowd was massive yet manged well by the organisers. We even had a sniper tower near us looking out for our safety.

2 hours before Mass it started to rain but the sun came back out for the Mass. We also ran into Patrice. Her Sydney group is staying in our building as are the Qld Vinnies group.

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Day 9 – Polish hospitality

Today was a more relaxed day than yesterday. Our only appointment was the 11am Parish Mass and then we could spend the day with our host family.

The Mass was a beautiful service with 3 Australian and 3 Polish priests concelebrating. At the end both the Australians and Polish expressed their gratitude for the amazing week together.  Afterwards we were presented with a photo gift and given one more chance to talk to the locals. After that it was free time with host families.

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While every pilgrim’s story will differ, the time with my host family involved a scrumptious lunch consisting of chicken soup, rissole(that tasted far better than a rissole), a gnocchi-like potato and some red cabbage sauerkraut.

After lunch we went and visited a castle(along with at least a quarter of the pilgrims). Now the Kamien Slaski we visited the other day may be considered a castle but I don’t watch Downtown abbey and I expect my castles to look like old castles. So I was quite impressed with the Moszna Castle.

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Moszna Castle is a gothic/baroque style castle that was set on fire by the Soviets before being renovated to it’s former glory. One room has about 6 paintings of the owner’s wife from when it was owned by a Duke. I wonder whether I could stand to look at 6 paintings of myself everyday (perhaps if they painted me driving a race car or playing State of Origin).

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We ended the night with more amazing food and drink. Tomorrow we leave for Krakow. Pray for us.

Craig

Day 8 – Mt St Anne and Opole 

We were fortunate to have been in Zdziesowice for their big annual feast and pilgrimage walk – for St Anne.  They have a sight just out of town called Mt Anne. We took part in the pilgrimage walk through the forrest, which took about 2 hours, before reaching the grotto site for Mass with about 5 thousand people.

We were joined by 33 other counties, most of whom were also on their way to WYD. But is is generally popular with the locals and some neighboring countries. Jared was a part of the official program reading all the English translations. 

Afterward all pilgrims from across the Opole Diocese travelled to converge for a Eucharistic concert 

This was a taste of what is to come for WYD week.  The energy and vibe was amazing with lots of singing and dancing.  There ain’t no party like a Catholic party! But no Catholic event is complete without the Eucharist, and we had Adoration with the thousands there to finish the evening.

It was a huge day and we’re excited but weary. 

Day 7 – Nysa

Today we headed to Nysa. It is an old city and has not been maintained to the standard of Warsaw or Krakow. We found out from our host family tonight that it is in an area that has often been taken over by other countries, mainly Germany, so had been a feeling that they could lose it again so hadn’t worried about putting money for repair into it like other centres. Also after the war bricks were in short supply so ones from damaged buildings in Nysa were taken to rebuild Warsaw. 

We visited the Sisters of St Elizabeth where we celebrated Mass in their chapel – small but stunning

The point to take home from Mass “My soul is thirsting for you O Lord my God”(I remembered Fr Leo!).  The sisters showed us the story of Blessed Maria Merkert leader of their order and the work she did with the poor and sick.
We visited St Mary’s Basilica where the remains of Blessed Maria are kept.   We then went past the Church of Sts Peter and Paul. This church had a lot of hidden meaning and unusual things. From the Cross on the ceiling that appeared to move with you as you walked around so was always facing your direction, to the tomb of Christ replica  (size and shape and one of only 3 in Europe) to the Chapels that were linked by murals signifying the death of Man (Adam and Eve) to the death of Christ that restored us. The afternoon finished with a visit to the old Palace which is now owned and fully restored by the Diocese of Opole. You can stay here for $65 AUD per night.

Today was tough though.  Everyone was a bit physically and mentally drained, one of our pilgrim’s brothers is critically ill back home, it is quite hot and we were on the move all day. In these tough times we must remember the psalm from Mass mentioned earlier”My soul is thirsting for you O Lord my God”. Our sole purpose on earth is to make our way to God, our deepest longing, and nothing else will satisfy that. And what better way for us to do that here than in Adoration to end our day.

Zdzieszowice

Last night we arrived at Zdzieszowice, where we will spend 5 nights with a host family. Zdzieszowice is a town of about 18 000 and relies heavily on it’s steel plant for most jobs.

The people here are great, the church is lively and there is a huge youth presence there. I’ve been told there are 100 young men who assist at Mass and therefore no other lay people are required.

The Polish are known for the great hospitality they provide and we have all seen it since staying with our host family. Among other things, I was treated to great Polish food, beer and Vodka. Why have I not heard of Polish vodka before!

Today we met up with the community at Mass and then walked to the other Church – The Church of St Padre Pio. This recently constructed Church contains a piece of cloth from the bleeding stigmata hands of St Pio. Our Polish priest also told us a story that St Pio told John Paul II that he would one day be Pope but JP2 didn’t believe him.

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Next it was off to the Winnie the Pooh park for lunch. Winnie is quite popular over here as are scooby-do and the smurfs.

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The we went to Zdzieszowice’s pride and joy the steel factory.

From what I could understand, the factory imports raw coal and then turns it into coal ready to be used in power stations. It is the biggest factory of it’s kind in Poland. It imports coal from Australia and elsewhere with Gladstone one of the Ports the product is exported from.

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At nighttime we went to the Parish grounds for a World Youth Day celebration. It was an opportunity for us to meet more parishioners. There was much singing, dancing and great food. We tried to teach the kids touch football but I don’t think it sunk in.

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