The cross and icon cross the Tasman

The biggest event so far as kiwi ambassadors – Josie Leota, Wellington, and Jane Dravitski, Palmerston North, escort the cross and icon across the Tasman.

We gathered in Auckland on the Friday evening of 29 June ready for the biggest event so far as Kiwi ambassadors. The farewell from the Diocese of Auckland was special, particularly the Marist group LOGOS in their poignant presentation of the six ambassadors through song and dance.

The bond that was formed among the group was immediate and strong.

‘We just have to wrap these taonga in all the mana they deserve, and show Australia how much of an impact it has had while here on our shores,’ Geremy Hema (Auckland ambassador) said.

This was not possible without our kapa haka group made up of the three Māori Catholic colleges – Hato Petera, Paora and Hohepa (Ss Peter, Paul and Joseph respectively).

The events of Sunday 1 July in Sydney were the highlight of the trip. The day began with a moving ceremonial handover at the Sydney Airport in the morning, in which many dignitaries were present including Australian Prime Minister, John Howard.

We then handed over the cross and icon to the young people of the indigenous Aboriginal community in Sydney and young representatives of dioceses around Australia. We then witnessed the moving and symbolic liturgy and veneration of the cross and icon at Mary MacKillop Place.

How fitting it was to bring these symbols to this sacred ground which commemorates the founder of Australia’s first homegrown religious order, the Sisters of St Joseph, in its first stage of pilgrimage around Australia. Together with the Australian delegation we walked the cross and icon to Darling Harbour, and the main event.

The six ambassadors carried the cross into the main event. We were overwhelmed with people pushing and surging forward to touch these powerful symbols, jumping into the water feature to catch a closer glimpse, shouting praise, and crying at the sight of the cross. With the excitement and energy 5,000 Australian people showed at Darling Harbour, there is no doubt WYD 2008 in Sydney is going to be great!

For us the trip has renewed many feelings—excitement, joy, gratitude, and hope. We would like to thank Archbishop John Dew, and project manager, Dave Mullin, who taught us humility, service, leadership and initiative, which we will treasure for life. Our prayers and best wishes are with those hoping to go to Sydney as pilgrims, as they begin their preparations for World Youth Day next year.

Josie and Jane are Wellington’s and Palmerston North’s Kiwi Ambassadors.