Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese,
23 Jul 2013
On his last day in Lima, Cardinal George Pell visited each of the sites where the young Aussie pilgrims had been working On mission projects prior to flying into Rio de Janeiro for World Youth Day.
And at one site where the group was building a concrete stairway into the muddy and steep hillside of a shanty town he joined the bucket line to get the last of the concrete up the incline to the last steps.
The Cardinal was delighted that all the projects planned by the Aussie pilgrims were not only completed but were enthusiastically welcomed by the local communities, especially the little children.
His first stop was a large concrete sports field constructed by the Maronite group. The leader of the Fraternas told him that the youth worked so diligently and effectively that they were able to hand carry more concrete than required and therefore able to construct a bigger field.
And they finished ahead of schedule!
When the Cardinal arrived some young boys were already kicking a ball round on the freshly set concrete. They immediately asked the Cardinal to join in which of course he did.
He later commented on the real practical benefit of a sports field for young people in a village devoid of parks or open spaces.
In order to clear the space for the field a great quantity of rock was excavated from the side of the hillside. It only remained for the Aussies to fill the flat expanse with several tonnes of concrete, all passed by hand in buckets.
The second site Cardinal Pell visited included the two steep staircases constructed by the Catholic schools groups. It was clear what benefit these two simple but useful constructions would have as the terrain was particularly hazardous. The students were amazed at the way the locals would have to haul water and other supplies up the steep and rocky slopes and along rough and dangerous pathways marked out by constant use.
Now the staircases will make their lives much easier and efficient, allowing a straight and sturdy passage for young children, the elderly and villagers going about their daily routines.
The Cardinal was delighted to discover that the Victorian group was putting the finishing touches on the staircases when he arrived at their work site to surprise them. As they saw the Cardinal approaching the pilgrims from all around Victoria started applauded and then came up to greet him warmly.
They proudly explained to him the work they had been doing over the past three days. Not only had they completed the staircase, but they had the time to plant a line of shrubs along the staircase from top to bottom. In a place where trees are almost non-existent, this was certainly a welcome addition. Also the pilgrims decided to paint the stairs red, white and blue - a colourful reminder of the Aussie contingent long after they have left.
These artistic additions prompted the Cardinal to remark:"Well, the Sydney staircase is much bigger than yours, but yours is definitely more stylish!"
Try Surkitt from Shepparton said it had been a blessing not only to do the hard manual work but also to get to know the locals and gain an insight into the way they live.
The Aussies were able to befriend local families and engage with many children in the village.
"One of the mothers was telling me she'd never seen the children so happy as they had been over the past few days," Troy said.
A number of pilgrims including the CEO group also worked on three buildings that were in dire need of attention. The local kitchen had leaks and deteriorating equipment, the medical centre needed work on the roof and a neonatal clinic needed painting.
Again, the whole community came out to greet the Cardinal and to thank him for the work done. He blessed many of the children and inspected the pilgrims hard labour.
And the Cardinal had the privilege of passing the last buckets of concrete up the line at the site of the staircase built by the Sydney pilgrims. Also in the bucket line were a number of Sydney priests and religious who had worked side by side with the pilgrims. The end of the job was commemorated with a Mass at the base of the stairs with the local community, as well as the "unveiling" of a plaque and the customary smashing of the champagne bottle in the presence of a very happy local Mayor.
"I am immensely proud of the work the Australians have done in this region, and we are grateful for the collaboration of the Fraternas and the local community to achieve such a great result for all," Cardinal Pell said.
Today Cardinal Pell and the pilgrims are in Rio de Janeiro to welcome Pope Francis and the start of World Youth Day. Many have already said via social media WYD Rio has already many meant so much because of what they have been able to give to others in the past week.