SIXTEEN teachers, campus minister, youth leaders and Brisbane Catholic Education office staff will be setting off for two prayerful weeks among crowds of young Catholics for World Youth Day Lisbon 2023.
Six of the pilgrims spoke to The Catholic Leader in the lead-up to their journey.
This would be the first World Youth Day for three of the six – St Thomas More College, Sunnybank, campus minister Elisha Hiscock, BCE communications and media advisor Caroline Kovac, and a teacher at Clairvaux MacKillop College in Upper Mt Gravatt Liam McParland.
Ms Hiscock said she had always heard about WYD and how transformative it was.
“Right now, I can see young people experiencing such a hunger for God, there’s a want and a need to experience God’s love,” she said.
“We’re seeing it all around us in the Church, a revival breaking out and I want to take part in that.”
She was going to share her experiences with her students, saying personal testimony was an essential part of the faith journey.
For Ms Kovac, the WYD theme – “Mary arose and went with haste”, resonated deeply.
“As a woman I really identify with Mary and her journey, so I know this pilgrimage was meant for me,” she said.
“Mary is a woman of profound influence within the Catholic faith, serving as a powerful symbol of faith, love, bravery, and devotion, which is why I identify with her.
“Like Mary’s decision to say yes to God, this experience is a blessing, and I am glad I have said yes to this opportunity.”
She was eager to see the pope in person and experience the cultures.
Mr McParland said he was going to bring his stories of the pilgrimage back to the classroom and his school more broadly.
“This pilgrimage is a perfect example of how Catholics can go about continuing the mission of Jesus in the world by learning from each other, sharing stories, and developing a global perspective on what it means to be Catholic,” he said.
He said his faith strongly influenced his approach to education.
“During difficult situations with students, I constantly remind myself to have patience with the students and to help guide them as they navigate the world,” he said.
“Especially in those challenging moments, I find myself asking, ‘how can I see God in my students?’ ‘What is God trying to teach me in this moment?’ Answers vary from ‘show patience,’ to ‘listen,’ or to ‘slow down and be kind to yourself,’ however, at the heart of this is a genuine care for my students.
“My personal prayer for WYD is, ‘guide me with faith, hope and love,’ and this has been an anchoring principle personally and for my teaching of philosophy.”
For Jared Press, a teacher at Trinity College, Beenleigh, WYD Portugal was a chance to experience the energy of WYD Krakow 2016 anew.
“As to my hopes (for WYD), I am being careful,” he said.
“While I have spiritual goals I am working towards, ones which will shape large parts of my pilgrimage, I am trying not to build it up, or put criteria around what would be a successful journey.
“I believe it is important to attend such spiritual events with an open mind and heart, letting the Holy Spirit guide you to wherever you need to go.
“In saying that, as a teacher in a Marist community I am certainly looking forward to understanding more of my relationship with Mary.”
Jared Press: “I believe it is important to attend such spiritual events with an open mind and heart, letting the Holy Spirit guide you to wherever you need to go.”
Mr Press said he had shared his testimony from Krakow about 25 times and was eager to add Portugal to the list.
He said his faith was vital in the classroom.
“Not only can it bring more meaning to the curriculum, it also provides an authentic religion classroom,” he said.
“Pastorally, my faith allows me to reflect on my practices and conversations throughout the day.
“It also keeps me keep grounded or at least helps me to see the times when I wasn’t.”
Pilgrim leaders Enrique Ramirez Chavez and Stephanie Unger both looked back on their WYD experiences in discerning their vocations, their purpose and passions.
Both said how incredibly the Holy Spirit could move people at WYD to try new things.
“Whatever the case will be for each of our pilgrims,” Ms Unger said. “We can’t wait to see how the Holy Spirit will move in WYD Portugal ‘23.”