Many pilgrims to World Youth Day have reflected together on the impact of the experience on themselves and their groups.
Without exception, all agreed the experience was well worth the time and effort in getting to Sydney in July.
Heath Hutton said the WYD journey had increased his understanding of humanity and how diversity is both a gift that brings joy and richness and a catalyst for tension and conflict.
‘WYD confronted me and created a lot of profound questions like, How can our simple human likeness be diminished by some peoples’ need to be right and to force their view on others?’
He says the deep divides that can be caused by mere difference has hardened his resolve to strive to be a bridge between people—‘a bridge of tolerance, of compassion and of understanding’.
At Challenge 2000 he is able to bring together people who would not otherwise meet.
‘What can happen as a result of this gives me hope and a way of living out what I encountered at World Youth Day.
Andrew Aitken, who helps children from poor families with their homework, leads youth groups and works with people with learning disability to help them gain the confidence to realise their potential, says WYD helped him decide that he would put himself in the best position to help others.
Manu Maihi Ioane says the trip to Australia ‘made me want to become a better person and to do my bit to change the wrong and unjust things in the world’.
Diana Taylor says she was impressed that members of her group from parishes in Wellington’s eastern suburbs, were so accepting of each other and went out of their way to be inclusive. Hearing the excitement of the younger members of the group ‘really inspired me in my faith and gave me hope’.
The hospitality and generosity of the people at the host school stands out for Felise So’oa. ‘Even though it was their holiday time they worked hard and stayed every night at the school with us.’ But he found some elements of hypocrisy that he saw in Sydney hard to take.
‘It was hard for me when I saw people singing hymns and at the same time just dropping rubbish on the street or even people pushing past others to get closer to events. Also some people argued about who had the right to hand out holy pictures and whose opinion was right. I have decided I need to speak out and step up more.’
Katherine Leslie was also profoundly moved by the hospitality.
‘I shared with my Challenge 2000/Marist community and something we, as a youth community, strive to be like—a living example and witness to the power of the Holy Spirit as we live our lives.’
Hadley Middleton says he understood more the sorts of things talked about in youth groups and Masses, ‘such as servant leadership, sacrifice for others and living the gospel as Jesus did in his time’. It was a chance to ‘step back and look at the way I was living my life’.
Hadley says he realised through the World Youth Day experience that he must pursue his ambition to become a social worker, an idea that had formed through his work at Challenge 2000.