AN excited group of young Brisbane Catholic Education teachers and staff has arrived in Europe for the 31st World Youth Day.
The 20 pilgrims, a mixture of school-based and head office staff, are joining more than 3000 young Australians on the “journey to the City of Mercy” in Krakow, Poland and Mass with Pope Francis.
Several of the BCE pilgrims are updating their journeys on social media, providing an insight into a unique trip.
Led by BCE Staff Pilgrimage coordinators, Leigh Stower and Peter Stower, the pilgrims are embarking on a journey that has already taken them to Berlin, a stopover in Dresden, a visit to the medieval city of Wroclaw, a stopover in Czestochowa and finally on to Krakow where they will take part in morning Catechesis with Bishops from around the world.
Along the journey they will visit the infamous Auschwitz concentration camp, the Martyrdom Museum and St Maximilian Kolbe’s prison cell, the Jasna Gora Shrine and the image of the Black Madonna, as well as the Shrine of Divine Mercy and explore the Wieliczka Salt Mines.
The WYD experience will give the pilgrims an opportunity to participate in the richness and diversity of the Church with other like-minded people.
They will learn about different aspects of the Church, from ancient traditions to new teachings and perspectives of the Church on important issues like stewardship of the earth and caring for the poor and marginalised in society.
On returning, the pilgrims will impart their experiences with students and staff not only in their own schools, but across our community of schools.
Kathryn Lambkin, acting APRE at St John Vianney’s Primary School, Manly, said there were many reasons why she applied to go on the BCE World Youth Day Pilgrimage.
“I could mention that as an APRE it will provide me with a wealth of professional knowledge and spiritual formation, or that I will experience a unique and extraordinary manifestation of ‘the universal church’.
“I could write that I will visit some of the spiritual ‘Meccas’ of our Catholic faith and form friendships with colleagues.
“While these reasons are most certainly true and attractive, if I had to sum up my core reason in one sentence it would be this: God is everywhere, but sometimes we have to seek him in big and courageous ways.
“As teachers, we are privileged to see myriad ‘God moments’ through the words and actions of the children we teach and when we journey with families through their joys, disappointments and challenges.
“While this is indeed a blessing, it can become easy to forget the true presence of God in each one of these moments, to forget just how real His love is and how involved He is in every part of our lives.
“In his Easter Vigil homily, Archbishop (Mark) Coleridge spoke of the unfailing companionship and guidance of God as we cross constant thresholds throughout our lives.
“These thresholds take us away from the familiar; disorientate us, but ultimately transform us in a way that is irrevocable.
“Immediately I thought of World Youth Day and the threshold we will cross, both individually and as a group.
“I can attest that being a pilgrim can be trying at times, but our ‘disorientation’ will happen knowing that we are journeying together with a greater goal in sight.
“I hope to not only share a new array of knowledge and experiences upon my return, but after encountering God in a big way, I hope to be renewed in continually seeing Him in all things – big and small.
Michael White, a teacher at St Benedict’s College, Mango Hill, said it was with great excitement that he received the news he had been accepted to be one of BCE’s World Youth Day Pilgrims for 2016.
“This opportunity marks the beginning of another chapter in my spiritual journey as a teacher in Catholic education,” Mr White said.
“In 2013 I had the privilege of becoming a foundation staff member of St Benedict’s College, Mango Hill where I currently teach Music and Religion.
“Being in a new school with only a handful of staff, you very quickly build close bonds with your students. Music has long been a significant part of my life.
“It is both a passion and a profession.
“It is also the way in which I engage my students in prayer and worship.
“Through music, my college choir and music ministry students enliven the many liturgies and masses on the college calendar.
“As teachers in Catholic schools, we strive to find meaningful ways to engage our students in opportunities for faith formation.
“I see my students to be most enthusiastic and willing to become involved when they can see that their teacher has actually lived the faith life that they teach.
“World Youth Day presents such a rich opportunity to engage with the global Catholic Church and to share this experience with my students. “Perhaps a World Youth Day Instagram or Twitter might capture their interest in following my pilgrimage journey?
“I see World Youth Day as a transformational faith opportunity and a chance to further develop my understating of the global expression of Catholicism and, in particular, what is means to be a young Catholic.
“Whilst I’m not quite sure what to expect, I know that I will return from this pilgrimage having grown and I’m ready to fully embrace all those experiences that will be part of World Youth Day 2016.”