‘You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you will be my witnesses.’ (Acts 1:8)
This time last year we were in full swing of final preparations for the Sydney World Youth Days and the Days in the Diocese. The archdiocese hosted over 300 international pilgrims on their way to Sydney. Looking back, this was probably one of the most Spirit-filled moments of the WYD experience—Wellington families hosting international pilgrims, new discoveries of our city, church and culture as we were welcomed onto marae, showed visitors around Te Papa Tongarewa and local churches and shared, even through the language barriers, the life and experience of people from all over the world.
• Spiritual preparation through the Activ8 programme and retreats
• Administration preparing for travel and accommodation
• Last-minute fundraising.
Then came the unforgettable week in Sydney—I came home on a plane full of pilgrims who sang as we landed ‘Wellington’s got the Catholics’. Almost a year later, are we all still prepared to show Wellington Catholic life and values?
One year on, what have we seen as fruits of that pilgrimage?
• Young people ‘filled with the power’: some asking to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation (St Patrick’s, St Catherine’s, Bishop Viard College); others looking to deepen their life of prayer.
• Youth involved in leadership training, eg the 22 Wellington graduates of the leadership programme in March this year.
• A new sense of ‘universal church’ through the hospitality and activities offered to the pilgrims who came to Wellington for their days in the diocese, eg from France, Poland, Canada, the Philippines, Mexico and the United States.
• Commitment to service projects and missionary service overseas, eg to Vanuatu, and even to Africa.
• Commitment to vocations within the church, eg to the national seminary, and to religious orders while others are looking for new ways of service within the church community
• New vitality of ethnic chaplaincies and a belief in the gifts they offer to the archdiocese.
• Cyber space chocked with emails and text messages between young New Zealanders and pilgrims from all over the world.
• Establishment of the new national youth office, and the appointment of Sr Helen O’Sullivan to lead us into the future.
What are my hopes for the year ahead?
• I hope that we will continue to let God fill us with the power of the Holy Spirit, that the fire we experienced in Sydney will not die, but will continue to bear fruit in holiness, hospitality, healing and helping.
• I hope that we will continue to pray over the catechesis sessions and homilies of Pope Benedict during the days in Sydney: how do we respond to the Pope’s question ‘What does it mean to be fully alive … to live life to the full?’ These are available on line—or in printed form from the Archdiocesan Youth Office—it could be helpful to take a day of retreat and ponder again those powerful words. It might be beneficial for all of us – not just the young people who went to Sydney – to reflect on those messages, and pray over their content.
• I hope that we continue to be challenged by Pope Benedict’s words to us at the vigil: ‘What is our response to a divided and fragmented world? How can we offer the hope of peace, healing and harmony to those ‘stations’ of conflict, suffering and tension through which we have chosen to walk?’
Pope Benedict said in his farewell address: ‘World Youth Day has shown us that the church can rejoice in the young people of today and be filled with hope for the world of tomorrow.’
I experienced this joy and hope in Sydney, I experienced it in the Days in the Archdiocese and I believe it can happen every day in our archdiocese and in our church. It will continue to happen when we all know deep in our hearts that we have already received the power of the Spirit who calls us to be witnesses to the gospel.
This Pentecost we ask again and give thanks for the Spirit with which we have been gifted.