Sydney Pilgrims Commissioned by Archbishop Fisher for WYD Poland

Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese,
11 Jul 2016

St Mary's Cathedral was packed beyond capacity on Sunday as hundreds of young World Youth Day pilgrims, their family and friends, joined the regular congregation for Mass, during which Archbishop Anthony Fisher officially commissioned them for their pilgrimage to Poland.

There are more than 850 young people from the Archdiocese of Sydney taking the pilgrimage to attend World Youth Day in Krakow, from July 25 to 31, making it the biggest WYD overseas pilgrimage ever to leave the Archdiocese.

Archbishop Fisher told the congregation he was delighted to be commissioning the Sydney pilgrims and to be present to give them his blessing and wish them bon voyage.

"Sadly, due to my recent illness, my doctors will not let me travel overseas," he said in his homily. "Happily, however, I have two new auxiliary bishops and have asked the youngest bishop in Australia, Bishop-elect Richard Umbers, who is concelebrating with me today, to accompany you in my place. Auxiliary Bishop Terry Brady will also be taking a group. And I will be accompanying you all in prayer and watching from a distance."

The Sydney Archdiocesan WYD group includes 654 students from Sydney Catholic Schools and 204 post-school aged pilgrims from across the Archdiocese.
Archbishop Fisher said he was thrilled to be commissioning so many WYD pilgrims from the Sydney Archdiocese.

"When I see so many young people fired with love of God, the Church and the world, ready to make the long journey of faith in company with 2 million other young people, thousands of bishops, priests and lay leaders, and one very happy Pope, my heart is truly warmed, and my hope for the future strengthened," he said.

Preaching on Jesus' Parable of the Good Samaritan, Archbishop Fisher noted that the theme for WYD in Krakow, is 'Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy' (Mt 5:7).

"If we show mercy, we will be given divine mercy in abundance; and when we receive divine mercy we should be ready to show it to others," he said.
"We must become the Good Samaritan.

"Baptism is for biography: for writing the story of God, here and now, as lived in you and me. And so, on your World Youth Day pilgrimage, each of you should ask yourself - what kind of character am I creating in the autobiography that is my life?"

Cheryl Fernandez, a teacher from St Agnes Catholic Primary School in Matraville is attending her fifth World Youth day, this time as bus group leader, and said the Commissioning Mass was an exciting occasion.

"It was so packed with people and it really brought the whole pilgrimage to reality," she said. "When you see the Cathedral so full, it starts to hit home, that this World Youth Day event is a sign of the universal Church. And it was so special that the Archbishop celebrated the commissioning Mass."

Cheryl says a highlight for her was everyone singing the World Youth Day song for Krakow, after which, Archbishop Fisher prayed the Prayer of Commissioning.

Sixteen-year-old Chiara Harbutt, from Brigidine College, Randwick is part of a group travelling to WYD via Italy, the homeland of her Mum's side of the family, and says the Commissioning Mass really ramped up the excitement level for her.

"Seeing everyone there together made it really sink in that it's actually starting to happen," she said. "It was pretty surreal actually. I didn't realise how many people from Sydney are going. It was amazing.

"It felt really nice, like I was part of a big community and that the people at the Mass actually really cared about us and that we were going. It felt special."

WYD small group leader, Dhanushka Jayawardna of Holy Spirit Parish, North Ryde, said the Mass confirmed for him that "we are the pointy end of preparations now, with just days to go until we depart".

"The thing that stood out for me at the Mass was just seeing so many young Catholics there. It was great to see how the Church is still young and alive."

Fr Danny Meagher, Chair of the Sydney Archdiocese WYD Committee, said the Commissioning Mass helps the young pilgrims to understand they are being sent out from the Archdiocese with a mission.

"Our Archbishop commissions us to go out on pilgrimage and to come back and bear the fruit of the WYD experience here in Sydney," Fr Danny said.

Director of Catholic Youth Services for the Archdiocese of Sydney, Bernard Toutounji, said that as the pilgrims prepare to leave for WYD, the prayers and hopes of the Archdiocese go with them.

"Our hope is that they have an encounter with God and with themselves, so they can really discover who they are and how their faith impacts who they are, as well as hopefully make friends for life," he said.
Robert Haddad, who is heading up the pilgrim group from Sydney Catholic Schools, said he expects it to be a transformative experience for many people.

"For our teachers who are going to WYD we hope it will inspire them in very deep ways that really brings their faith alive and that they can then bring back to the classroom and share with their students. And for the students who are going, we hope it will help them see the Church in a different light, in its universality, and that they will then inspire other young people with their faith."

Read the full text and video of Archbishop Fisher's homily here.