Emerging Leaders Program

World Youth Day

My time in Rome came to an end and I don’t think that anything in this world could really top having a private Q&A session with the Pope. After having such an incredible experience with Pope Francis, it seemed fitting that our next destination was Assisi which is where St Francis resided and achieved most of his good work. We had a guided tour of the Church of St San Damiano (the church that St Francis built) and a tour of the Basilica of St Mary of the Angles. In the evening we celebrated Mass together. On the second day we had the privilege of celebrating Sunday Mass at the Basilica of St Francis with the local community and visitors from around the world. The views and scenery from the hill were spectacular. We had a tour of the upper city and we also visited the Basilica of St Clair. It was an incredible experience.

From Assisi we made our way to Lisbon for World Youth Day. I am not sure why they call it World Youth Day, because it is a week-long celebration. On the Tuesday we began the celebrations with an Australian gathering and celebration with around 1000 people. It was outside in a park and had a real festival feel about it. Father Rob Galea and his band played for us, so along with formalities of welcoming us and prayer there was dancing, singing and laughing. In Lisbon the days consisted of in the morning catechises in the park followed by Mass. We would then try to attend a guest speaker in the afternoon. Often, we would line up for over an hour, slowly making our way to the front to find out that the event was full. Although disappointed, we had to look at the positives, which were that while in line were able to talk to people from different countries around the world. It was great to hear their experiences.

On the Thursday we attended the Opening Mass with the Pope. This had close to a million people in attendance. We had to make our way there at around 3:00pm for a 7:00pm start in order to get through the crowds. We found a position on the grass where we were near a screen to view the Mass. We had little radios that we held to our ear for the English translation.

On the Thursday evening we had another major gathering with the Procession of The Cross and World Youth Day Icon with the Pope in attendance and it seems that each public gathering, more and more people from around the world would attend. On Friday evening we watched a contemporary performance of the Stations of Cross. This was very moving. On the Saturday, we made a pilgrim walk to the site where Sunday Mass would be celebrated. Pope Francis joined us for an evening vigil. We slept out under the stars and by 8:30am on Sunday morning the sun was shining bright and its heat radiating. This would be the last time we would see the Pope make his entrance and the Mass would complete the World Youth Day celebrations. The Mass Service had 1.5 million people in attendance. While in extreme heat, it was a remarkable, unique experience.

After Mass, two special announcements were made. Firstly, there will be significant celebrations in Rome in 2025 for the Jubilee year, and secondly that the next World Youth Day will be held in South Korea. I really hope that staff and students from St Aloysius College will be able to take part in these events so that they can be touched by the Holy Spirit as I have been.

In 2025, Melbourne will host the Australian Catholic Youth Festival. I was privileged to attend this event with Mr Michael Chesser and students from our college in 2019 in Western Australia. This local event will be a great way to strengthen our hearts, celebrate our faith and prepare for the coming world events aimed at celebrating our faith.

I am so blessed and grateful for the opportunity and being able to share this experience with the community.

Mary De Bono
Year 9 Leader