The BCE WYD Pilgrims ready to set off from Brisbane Airport .
A vibrant and excited group of young Brisbane Catholic Education (BCE) employees from as far as Gayndah to the Gold Coast were farewelled on Friday, 28 July, as they embarked on their journey to Lisbon, Portugal.
On their way to attend World Youth Day 2023, the group of 16 BCE staff, teachers, and campus ministers are joined by Head of Catholic Identity Sharon O'Keeffe, Strategy and Performance Executive Karen Harrison, Father Jack Ho, and BCE pilgrim coordinators Stephanie Unger and Enrique Ramirez Chavez.
The World Youth Day celebration will take place from 1 to 6 August with activities and celebrations held at different sites in Portugal’s capital city and will see young Catholics from across the world gather to encounter Christ through unique and vibrant expressions of faith by the global Church.
Pope Francis is scheduled to arrive in Portugal on 4 August to lead the pilgrims in spiritual gatherings, including a Way of the Cross and a closing Mass, where pilgrims will have the opportunity to pray with The Pope.
Elisha Hiscock, Campus Minister at St Thomas More College Sunnybank, expressed her enthusiasm and anticipation for the international event.
“As someone deeply involved in guiding and supporting young individuals on their spiritual journeys, I recognise the significance of World Youth Day as a unique opportunity to witness the profound hunger for God among youth,” she says.
“My hunger for God is not just a personal pursuit but one I can take back to my College and share with my students.
“I can’t wait to see what World Youth Day has in store for me.”
Pilgrimage coordinator Steph Unger says the event is “an extraordinary, hard-to-describe, epic phenomenon” and a “lived response to God's call for us.”
“The pilgrimage is an opportunity for the young pilgrims to grow stronger in their Catholic faith and each call is different for each pilgrim,” she says.
“For the young pilgrims on this trip, it is also an opportunity to join with Pope Francis, Bishops, and Clergy to share stories, unpack church teachings, and celebrate powerful liturgies as a global church.”
Fellow coordinator Enrique Ramirez Chavez says this year’s theme is ‘Mary arose and went with haste,’ and that pilgrims may find inspiration in Mary’s courageous acceptance of God's will.
“Our 16 pilgrims, just like Mary, have all said yes in a big way to this opportunity, one which will allow them to encounter Jesus in a genuine way, opening the door to a deeper and more personal relationship with God,” he says.
BCE Senior Leader Paul Easton and Father of one of the pilgrims, All Saints Primary School Albany Creek teacher Genevieve Easton, says he wishes his daughter and the other pilgrims all the best as they begin their faith-filled journey.
“I am very excited for her,” he says.
“I hope her travels bring her many new friendships, profound spiritual enlightenment, cherished moments of introspection, a deep sense of connection with her faith and the rich cultural heritage of Portugal and Spain.
“May Genevieve and all the pilgrims return home with hearts and minds enriched, carrying the warmth and blessings of their pilgrimage to inspire and uplift their faith-filled learning communities.”
Fellow parent of a pilgrim, Leanne Kovac, says she hopes her daughter Caroline Kovac, a BCE Communications & Media Advisor, will cherish the pilgrimage.
“I hope she takes the time to slow down and take in the whole experience,” she says.
“I also hope she finds an emotional connection to this journey and connection to her Catholic family ties and European heritage.”
As part of the pilgrimage, the BCE pilgrims will also visit Avila, Segovia, and Salamanca in Spain before heading to Portugal where they will experience World Youth Day in Lisbon, concluding their journey with a spiritual retreat in Fatima.
BCE would like to wish the pilgrims all the best as they begin their journey. May the pilgrimage be a transformative experience which fills their hearts with joy, strengthens their beliefs, and fosters lasting bonds of camaraderie among fellow pilgrims.
Prayer for World Youth Day Lisbon 2023:
Our Lady of the Visitation, you who left in haste towards the mountain to meet Elizabeth, lead us also to meet all those who await us to deliver them the living Gospel: Jesus Christ, your Son and our Lord!
We will go in a hurry, with no distraction or delay, but with readiness and joy. We will go peacefully, because those who take Christ take peace, and welldoing is the best wellbeing.
Our Lady of the Visitation, with your inspiration, this World Youth Day will be the mutual celebration of the Christ we take, as You once did.
Make it a time of testimony and sharing, fraternization, and giving thanks, each of us looking for the others who always wait. With you, we will continue on this path of gathering, so that our world will gather as well, in fraternity, justice and peace.
Help us, Our Lady of the Visitation, to bring Christ to everyone, obeying the Father, in the love of the Spirit!
Brisbane Catholic Education Office
2A Burke Street, Woolloongabba Qld 4102 Australia
Turrbal and Yuggera Country
GPO Box 1201 Brisbane 4001 Australia
Phone: (07) 3033 7000
Fax: (07) 3844 5101