Conor: In Australia the ‘I’ bowed gracefully and took a step backwards to cede primary focus to the ‘We’ and the ‘Us’. A strong feeling of community reigned supreme. Will we carry that sense of community in our bones back to homes across the earth? Can we turn it outwards and light a stronger flame under our Social Spirituality? Will we breath new life into this, a spirituality that ‘takes its focus beyond ‘me’ and how ‘I’ feel, and looks sideways, downwards, upwards…….toward society, and the world, and all its gifts and all its injustices? My prayer for all of us coming back from Australia, is that we do not let this become just another new experience under which to bury ourselves. Rather, that we persist to find from it ‘More’ for our lives. ‘More’ for our world. Men and women for others. Heartfelt thanks to the Ignatian family and particularly to our colleagues in the Jesuit Province as well as the wider Church in Australia for facilitating such a valuable experience.
Majella: It’s difficult to put in words the inner impact of this experience. Magis is the adverb ‘more’. We lived out magis in the sense that each person gave themselves intensely to the experience. We gave more of ourselves physically and lived in the present moment as the daily cares of life faded into the background. We opened ourselves to the stories of the people who walked beside us, and the uniqueness of each individual experience. Through the hardships of the journey we found an inner strength and positivity. As I continue on my own journey, I will value the friendships I made and draw inspiration from the connection we share in our human struggle.
Ronan: While in Sydney I recognised more fully the true state of the Irish Church. It is one filled with hope and preparing to burst forth from congregations hungry to delve more deeply into their faith…preparing. Irish suicide rates are amongst the world’s highest. A sense of isolation and desolation are becoming the norm along with our consumerist lifestyles in our ‘civilised’ society. Irish society has in general become little more than hedonistic. Mass attendance has fallen sharply. The Church is dying…..
This is the situation I left. When I returned I found something a little different…1,000 young Irish Catholics celebrating their faith in Knock, followed by another youth festival in Clonmacnois weeks later. Younger parishioners are not only trickling back to Sunday Masses but are also making their presence felt on parish boards. Faith groups are popping up all over the country as Ireland’s youth recognises the emptiness of our current aspirations. In Sydney we saw this Church. As I gazed over the endless sea of vibrant hope at the final Mass I was filled with awe. I suddenly felt that this whole crazy journey was worth it. We were home and that home will always be with us.
The Church consumed with images of hell and damnation is dying….and to be honest I don’t see the problem while the Church of hope and love…the Church of life….is rising from its predecessor’s ashes. We are home with hearts ablaze, determined to see the transition through to the end.
Michele: Have you ever looked at a beautiful sunset and felt as if your heart was going to burst? A moment of inspiration where you wanted to give, to respond to the beauty you were seeing? Have you ever sat with your friends and felt so connected to them and felt so full of love that anything seemed possible?
Have you ever given of your time, talent, skill or a little piece of who you are and felt that maybe you had something worthwhile to give and perhaps you wanted to get more involved, offer more? This was my experience at the World Youth Day (WYD) in Sydney last month. My heart was gladdened by the sight of thousands of young people worshipping God with their flags, songs and words; of pilgrims from all nations and cultures welcoming Pope Benedict with the euphoria you’d feel in events like Oxygen or Electric Picnic; of all of us gathered around the WYD cross, a cross donated by John Paul II to the youth of the world.
Bernadette: “You will receive the power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you will be my witnesses”. My days there were filled with the joys of being with people of faith from different cultures, praying every day on trains and singing on the street our Christian Life everywhere we went, meeting locals who were curious and who brightened up when we made the effort to speak to them in Sydney. We also spent some days in a parish in Melbourne and I will always remember how people host us with a very warm welcome. Without knowing us, they treated us as their own family and the trust they gave us by opening their heart and their home remind me that Jesus is really alive in our heart. World Youth Day is an amazing experience! It transformed my life on so many levels; spiritually, personally and even professionally. Now I have already gone to World Youth Day Sydney Australia, I am on the committee to lead this one to Madrid Spain with our youth brothers and sisters in Rathmines, and I can’t wait until WYD 2011. Go Spain!!
Iva Berane: Days of the World Youth Day were overwhelming. To see young adults from every corner of the world gathered to celebrate our faith and to be witnesses to Christ and His Church was truly encouraging. What we often do not see in Western countries, we saw in Sydney: young Church, fully alive and enthusiastic, joyful and with zeal. It was obvious that God still calls and we are still responding. I am sure all of us deepened our commitment to the call of Christ to be His disciples. The topic was “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses to the ends of the Earth” (Acts 1:8). Leaving Australia to go back to Ireland was to go to the other side of the world, so ‘the ends of the Earth’ are here and now. We will need patience to see what the seeds planted during those days in Melbourne and Sydney will grow into, and how our personal vocation will take shape, but we know that we will be His witnesses. We already are.