Wellington’s pilgrimage started long before our feet left NZ soil (Archdio pilgrimage prep nights, an ANZAC Day dawn parade, individual reflections and 18 months of fundraisers); long before we followed St Paul’s footsteps through Turkey; long before we followed the footsteps of the more than 13 million other young adults who have pilgrimaged to World Youth Day since 1984. The same could be said for the parishes of Germany that spent just as long preparing for us to come to them for the Days of Encounter.
And so, rather than raving about Turkey, Greece or Germany; the 95 Kiwis (30 of them from Wellington); the tranquillity of Gallipoli; star-gazing with and waking up among 1.2 million others; crowd-stopping hakas; seeing the pope or salad in a can, I want to talk about a town called Siegen.
Siegen is about 100 kms from both Frankfurt and Cologne. It was the birthplace of artist Peter Paul Rubens and the territory of a 17th century count who became a prince. It was also our home for three nights. ‘Home’ because our German hosts made us feel like family. The WYD05 theme We have come to worship him (Matt 2:2) was brought to life by parishioners who welcomed us into their homes, prepared German fare, entertained and shared their stories with us (in English generally as most of the 95 Kiwis spoke no German past danke) and threw a party that lasted from morning Mass until late into the evening. Hospitality like we had never experienced it; Church as we know we can be.
And now, World Youth Day 2008 is coming ‘down under’ to Sydney. After almost three decades of travelling halfway across the world to bask in the hospitality of others, little ole NZ might now just have the chance to open up our own doors. After all, what’s a little stopover here for a few thousand pilgrims from all over the world before they jump the ditch?
But regardless of whether we do or don’t host international pilgrims, World Youth Day 2008 will be more accessible for NZ young adults and the planning has already begun to ensure that they get the most out of their pilgrimage experience.
If you’d like more info on WYD 2005 contact Chris or Rebekah in the Youth Office (04) 496 1731 or check out www.wjt2005.de