BRISBANE Catholic Education (BCE) farewelled a group of excited pilgrims as they began their amazing journey to World Youth Day (WYD) in Panama.
Founded by St John Paul II in 1984, WYD has since spanned generations of pilgrims, testimony of a living Church continually being renewed.
Youth are the protagonists of the meeting of faith, hope and unity where the young 'face' of Jesus was shown to the world.
WYD 2019 will take place in Panama City, Panama, from January 22 to 27, with activities and celebrations held at different sites in the capital city of the Central American nation.
Pope Francis, scheduled to arrive on January 23, will lead pilgrims at spiritual gatherings, including a Way of the Cross and a closing Mass when the next city to host World Youth Day will be announced.
The enthusiastic group of young representatives from Brisbane joined pilgrims from Cairns and Rockhampton Catholic Education for the pilgrimage that will take them to LA and Panama and an opportunity to pray with Pope Francis.
BCE pilgrimage coordinator Steph Unger said the pilgrimage was a unique opportunity for the young pilgrims to grow stronger in their Catholic faith.
“It's far more significant than just participating in the extraordinary, hard to describe, epic phenomena that was World Youth Day," she said.
“Rather, it's a lived response to God's call for us, in our lives, at this time.
“Each call is different to each pilgrim, it always is."
Steph and fellow pilgrimage coordinator Stephen Long from BCE's IMARE team, said the main goal of WYD was to let youth know about the message of Jesus Christ, in the context of a joyful meeting with the Pope, other young people from around the world and leaders of the Church.
“The 'day' actually lasts for the best part of a week, as young Catholics from all across the world gather together, encountering Christ through a unique and vibrant expression of faith by the global Church.
"Pope Francis, Bishops, Clergy and Religious accompany the millions of pilgrims by sharing stories, unpacking church teaching, celebrating powerful liturgies and by simply being joy-filled witnesses of a life lived for God.
"For the young teachers, APREs, Education Officers, Campus Ministers and Guidance Counsellors, this pilgrimage means way more than just a trip to Panama - the country affectionately called the 'Bridge to the Americas'."
Steph said some of the pilgrims may be drawn to experiencing WYD through the lens of Laudato Si' (Pope Francis' encyclical on the environment) and in light of the breathtaking biodiversity backdrop that can only be experienced in Panama.
She said for others, it may be an opportunity to connect with, and be inspired by, Mary and her courageous "Yes" to God.
“To others still, this pilgrimage might provide the first opportunity to encounter Jesus in a real and tangible way, opening the door to a deeper more personal relationship with Christ," she said.
Visit https://www.wydpilgrimcompanions.com to follow the pilgrims' journey as they shared their stories, experiences, learnings, challenges and joys.
Brisbane Catholic Education Office
2A Burke Street, Woolloongabba Qld 4102 Australia
GPO Box 1201 Brisbane 4001 Australia
Phone: (07) 3033 7000
Fax: (07) 3844 5101