The SPES contingent of the 'Oxford Oratory group from England' arrived in Melbourne, Australia on Monday afternoon for the 'Days in the Dioceses' event, along with all of our English contingents. Seeing as it is a long journey for most people to come aaaaaaall the way down under, the wise Australians have concocted a plan to make our journey worthwhile ... and more than a weeklong in Sydney.
Throughout this week, all over Australia and New Zealand (I think?!), Dioceses have been hosting talks, events, programming, etc for all the pilgrims journeying to Sydney for the week leading up to World Youth Day on 20th July.
We had a day of resting and relaxing with our host families - whether it be checking out tazmanian devils (Anthony's host family), chilling out with the family and the children of the family that are hosting you (Sarah is 8, Kate is 6 and Jack is 3) or checking out the city sights - Melbourne is a fantastic city. What a warm welcome they have shown us.
We also ran into our infamous Monica - commonly known as the Fundraiser at St Patrick's, she has also inherited the title 'Manager of SPES WYD Recruitment Manager'. Monica has facilitated printing of leaflets about the School, and basically ensured that the work and opportunity of SPES to young adults around the world is made available and publicised. A very busy and humble woman she is.
Wednesday to Friday have included talks, catechesis, colloquiums on Benedict XVI's 'Spe Salvi', Welcoming Ceremonies, and events focused on preparing the hearts of all pilgrims for World Youth Day in Sydney.
On Friday evening, SPES was handing out leaflets about the School of Evangelisation to pilgrims making their way into the big Telstra Dome (seats over 40,000 people!) for the Opening Mass. Whilst there were people of all beliefs, intentions and causes en route to the Telstra Dome, Jenny, Anthony and the brother of Henry Whisenant (student of 2006-2007) Thomas, engaged in dialogue with those who struggled with Church teaching, organised religion and church authority. How very beautiful to see the three of them crossing over to the other side, and allowing those 'not so interested' to continue to seek and journey toward the freedom and Truth that they seek.
Inside the Telstra dome, we were joined by over 30,000 other pilgrims (including our host families!) for an opening Mass. Bishop Denis' attention to detail and reverence for the liturgy of the Mass was very beautiful, despite the distractions and temptation to get lost in the joyful and energetic atmosphere of the Telstra Dome. It was hard to believe we were in 'Church', but our Celebrant was truly joyful and reverent in the Holy Mass in a unique and special place.
More to come as we share all of our stories about Aussie rules footies today ... and the social happening here at the parish. On Sunday afternoon we gather for Sunday Mass and a 'picnic' (although it seems awfully cold!) and then prepare to depart very early Monday morning for ... SYDNEY!
Please keep all of us in your prayers ... and we pray for all of our readers.