Leaders Full of Joy in Preparation for the WYD Krakow Adventure

Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese,
25 Feb 2016

WYD Leaders gathering at Benedict XVI Centre in preparation for Sydney's participation in WYD 2016

Over 50 pilgrim leaders who will be accompanying the Archdiocese of Sydney delegation to World Youth Day (WYD) in Krakow in July 2016 gathered together last weekend for formation, training and inspiration as they prepare for what will most certainly be a challenging mission.

The purpose of the weekend retreat, held in the beautiful bushland setting of the Benedict XVI Retreat Centre, was to gather nominated WYD leaders together to create a unity of vision and prepare them to lead hundreds of pilgrims on various pilgrimage itineraries to the WYD event. The retreat aimed to inspire the leaders with the original vision of Pope John Paul II for WYD, to provide foundational formation in Christian leadership, and to foster a spirit of fellowship and prayer amongst Sydney's WYD leaders 2016.

The group of leaders was comprised of religious sisters, Archdiocesan staff from CYS and University Chaplaincies, seminarians and young people being formed to be small group leaders.  Several priests joined the retreat who will be WYD chaplains to the travelling groups that will embark upon four separate itineraries en-route to the WYD host city. The chaplains, many of them young, will accompany and minister to the pilgrimage groups as they encounter multiple holy places and join with millions of other youth from around the world to meet with Pope Francis in what is being dubbed, the "City of Mercy". Krakow is in the home country of Pope John Paul II who first had the vision for the large gatherings of youth at international WYDs which began in the 1980s.

WYD Krakow will encounter the beginnings of the WYD story inspired by Pope John Paul II

The theme of this year's WYD is "Blessed are the merciful: for they shall receive mercy" (Matt 5:7), in keeping with the Jubilee Year of Mercy proclaimed by Pope Francis which will conclude on 20 November 2016.

The years of involvement in the international WYDs have highlighted the need to foster Christian leadership amongst young people and empower them in their call to be missionary disciples. The input at the retreat covered topics on prayer, theology of love, mercy, and some WYD practicalities and general leadership skills including communication and conflict resolution.

Eileen Leyne, a consecrated sister from the Marian Community of Reconciliation (Fraternas) and member of the University of Sydney Catholic Chaplaincy was an organiser of the retreat and remarked at how blessed it was.

"We haven't had the opportunity to have such a retreat weekend in the previous WYDs for our group leaders" said Eileen. "It seems that the Spirit is really blessing this Sydney pilgrimage and I think we all have great expectations for what God has in store for each of our and our pilgrims in this great Jubilee of Mercy pilgrimage."

Eileen described the retreat as a joyous occasion, where together the leaders shared their expectations for the adventure ahead. "We even learned a few Aussie songs to share with pilgrims from around the world!"

Sr Kate Atkins from the Missionaries of God's Love, one of the speakers at the retreat also noted how joy filled the young leaders were and how excited they were to be travelling together and fostering a spirit of community they hope to pass on to the pilgrims. Sr Kate spoke to the group on the theme of mercy and identified how essential the beatitude of mercy is to our own growth in holiness.

Sr Kate Atkins mgl presented to the WYD leaders on the topic of Mercy

"I am challenged to ask myself - am I merciful? Mercy is essential for us as Catholics to become more merciful to others, especially to those we struggle with" said Sr Kate.

"The world is crying out for us to receive mercy so we can be merciful. The world needs us to be icons of mercy to all people. As we become merciful to each then we witness to the world what it truly means to be Catholic."

In addition to the inspiring talks there were times for fellowship and prayer including Mass, a Holy Hour and time for the Sacrament of reconciliation.

It is expected nearly 1,000 pilgrims from the Archdiocese of Sydney, including a large contingent from Sydney Catholic Schools will depart Australia on various pilgrimage itineraries to join in Krakow for the week of WYD celebrations from July 26 - July 31 2016.

The pilgrimages include the Holy Land, the Marian Shrines of France and Portugal, the footsteps of John Paul II throughout Poland, the WYD week of festivities and a common post WYD retreat in the beautiful setting of Zakopane in Southern Poland.

For more information about the WYD pilgrimages and how to register, go to