Cardinal Pell makes his way to the altar at Barangaroo

Cardinal Pell makes his way to the altar at Barangaroo

Last night, at the end of a very long day, I sat down at my computer looking out over Darling Harbour from my hotel room trying to stir up enough energy to write. Alas, as it is now the following morning, it is clear that my efforts failed, but not necessarily because I ran of out energy; rather, because I could not find the words to sum up the events and emotions of the past day.

As one of the long-term volunteers on the WYD staff, I have been living WYD for the past four months. It is not hard to imagine how hard the work has been, nor the beating we have taken from the public through the media. Thus, you can understand the sense of triumph that was felt last night — not so much on my own behalf, but of the Church as the people of God.

The day began with the final preparations for the Vocations Expo, which is one of the projects for which I bear responsibility. As the pilgrims came streaming, all the hard work was lost in the conversations, joy and prayer. Everyone is thrilled with the environment and with the cross-section of the Church present. We are expecting about 2000 pilgrims every hour over the next few days and there is no doubt that many vocations will emerge in the Church in response to the relationships built in that room.

In many ways, the day was themed by vocations as I had two separate conversations with good friends of mine from the office who spoke to me about their own hunger for something more. One young women spoke of her consideration to enter a religious community; another about her desire to become a more active minister in the Church. Both conversations are but two of thousands that will occur here this week for this is the fruit of WYD. Every few years, pilgrims gather at WYD’s as disciples and leave as apostles.

Such was the case for me in 1993, when I attended my first WYD in Denver. During the opening mass, I recognized my own desire to be a part of this group of people (the Church) who made Heaven feel so close to home. In 1993, I was one of thousands of pilgrims looking out from the crowd onto a stage that was outside the limits of my imagination. Fifteen years later, during last night’s opening mass, I was asked to be on that stage to receive communion from the Cardinal in gratitude for my contribution to WYD and to the Church.

Fireworks over Barangaroo at the end of the evening

Fireworks over Barangaroo at the end of the evening

As I walked up to the altar, the communion song, “We are One Body” was sung invoking the many memories from Denver as it was the theme song from WYD ’93. As I looked on the capacity crowd of 150,000 pilgrims, overwhelmed by the blessings that have been showered upon me as a result of my decision to turn my life over to God, I said a prayer for those now looking at me — that they will have the courage to respond to God’s call with their own lives. At the same time, I said a prayer for myself, just weeks before my own final profession of vows with the Basilian Fathers and months before my own ordination to the priesthood; that I may have the courage to continually live my life prompted by the Holy Spirit.

And so it continues — this great journey through WYD, filled with hope and joy and the many gifts of the Spirit. Until next time, blessings and G’Day!

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