2023 WYD: CEWA pilgrims enriched by Pope’s message, ‘Do not be afraid’

09 October 2023

Almost two months since the World Youth Day (WYD) events in Lisbon, Portugal, celebrated by over 354,000 pilgrims from more than 200 countries from 1 to 6 August, the Catholic education WA staff and student pilgrims are still in awe of the experience they shared.

Pilgrims were inspired by Pope Francis’ hopeful message at the closing Vigil and Mass which attracted 1.5 million attendees.

‘Let’s all repeat this phrase in our hearts: ‘Don’t be afraid,’ he told the hushed crowd. Jesus knows the hearts of each one of you, the successes and the failures, He knows your hearts,’ His Holiness

said. ‘And in this moment He tells you, Don’t be afraid.’

Echoing similar sentiments, Catholic Education WA Executive Director Dr Debra Sayce said the international gathering affirmed her belief that ‘there are an extraordinary number of faith-filled young people across the world who are committed to nurturing their faith, celebrating being young, being on pilgrimage and committed to mission.’

Other Catholic education pilgrims reflected on their WYD experience.

Janica Sell said WYD was a rare chance to see the global church unite to celebrate ‘our faith.’

‘It was interesting to see Catholics from all around the world express their religion in a unique way, according to their cultures. And it was really eye opening for us to come and witness that.’

‘WYD gave me a deeper understanding of the universality of the Catholic Church and the diverse way that many different people express their faith. I will be able to bring my experience back into the classroom as a secondary Religious Education teacher to enrich my students understanding of pilgrimage Catholic teachings and expressions of faith,’ Emma Jane-Porter said.

Ana Frankovic said her experience allowed her to create a greater understanding of all the diverse cultures in the world, united by a common faith.

‘I experienced numerous unique cultures and I got to know so many different people around the world and just to encounter or share their experiences was amazing and I truly appreciate everything that was shared by so many people around the world.’

CEWA Director, Teaching and Learning, and WYD Coordinator Mandy Connor expressed her hope that the attendees will draw on this experience to deepen their own understanding of their role in the mission of Catholic education.’

Nicole Pearce said the group was able to ‘listen with an open heart and be unafraid to show Christian love as a practical love.’

‘As a student-with-disability consultant, I support students and their families and work with school staff to ensure the needs of students with additional needs are met. Whilst inclusion and advocacy have always been at the center of my work, the key learning that I can take away from my experience is that we must support the diversity in our schools not only because it is educationally and morally the right thing to do, but because it is a true expression of Christian love.’

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