Pilgrims not tourists – World Youth Day 2023

Since the first World Youth Day (WYD) gathering in Rome almost 40 years ago, millions of young people have participated in a further 15 WYD events held worldwide.

 This July, Pope Francis will gather with thousands of young people in Lisbon, Portugal. 

Those thousands will include 28 Canberra Goulburn Archdiocese pilgrims led by Archbishop Christopher Prowse. 14 are teachers in the Catholic Education system.

Although this will be Archbishop Prowse’s seventh WYD, he said each has been very different. 

“Yes, there are some similarities, but each time, there are different people, countries visited and different experiences. Seeing how the Holy Spirit uses WYD in people’s lives gives me great joy.

Adamant that those attending are “pilgrims, not tourists”, Archbishop Prowse noted that the trip would potentially be a “faith game-changer” for them.

“I hope the pilgrims will open their hearts to God and walk on the road to conversion,” he said. 

To begin preparations, local participants gathered for the first of three face-to-face pilgrim preparation sessions in mid-May. Each session includes a talk on aspects of the Catholic faith, Mass and practical logistics of the trip, such as what and what not to pack.

Teachers from St Thomas More Primary School in Campbell, Brittney Temple and Andrea McQuirk, quickly signed up, saying they wanted to experience the global Catholic Church first-hand. 

“Growing up, I heard a lot about being part of the global Catholic community,” Ms McQuirk said. “So I wanted to have an opportunity to experience it and to see where I fit in.” 

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Initially, Ms Temple said she knew very little about WYD but felt it would be an excellent opportunity to strengthen her faith after being encouraged to attend.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity to go on a pilgrimage overseas with like-minded people. I hope to bring those experiences back to the classroom and pass them on to my students.”

The 28 pilgrims will travel together for 19 days departing on July 26, 

Their journey will include visiting the ancient Spanish Renaissance city and Fatima, before joining the WYD Week of celebration in Lisbon with the Pope and the world’s youth. The highlight of the pilgrimage will be Pope Francis’s attendance at the welcoming and opening ceremony, the Way of the Cross, the vigil and, on the last day, the closing mass.