Journey to Lisbon 2023: The Parramatta Way

CathEd Parra WYD
Youth pilgrims from St John XXIII Parish, Glenwood-Stanhope Gardens are seen during a World Youth Day pilgrim formation session. Image: Diocese of Parramatta

Our young pilgrims depart for World Youth Day in Lisbon in mid-July this year. Here’s how they are preparing for this life-changing experience.

Bishop Vincent’s invitation to the Youth of Parramatta to join him on pilgrimage to World Youth Day in Lisbon set the wheels in motion for the teams from Catholic Schools and Catholic Youth Parramatta.

Our task: to prepare 130 young people spiritually, emotionally and practically for the journey over 18,000 kilometres to Lisbon.

The seven preparation sessions were based around the formation of the head, heart and hands. As we travel from Paris to Spain to Portugal, guided by Mary, we will follow in the footsteps of the saints: women and men who throughout history have carved a path to God just as our young people are today.

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Fr Andrew Rooney, one of the pilgrimage chaplains, teaches the Diocesan pilgrims about Our Lady of Fátima and the Shepherd children during a World Youth Day pilgrim formation session. Image: Diocese of Parramatta

As a teacher and a leader in the Diocese, I’ll be privileged to support young teachers as they grow in faith and love for their vocation. I have previously worked with Isabella Plust, a young FIAT (Faith in Action Team) teacher who is heading to Lisbon.

She is looking forward “to spending some time with God, to reflect, to take a step back and to come back hopefully feeling refreshed and renewed.

“I found as teachers, we’re always busy and on the go. Always having to prepare lessons, marking, registers, and programming – which is all part of our job, and we love doing it – but there’s never really a chance to just stop and take a step back. So, I’m most looking forward to just spending some time with God and to nurturing that relationship,” she said.

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Isabella Plust (centre), a young FIAT (Faith in Action Team) teacher at St John Paul II Catholic College, Schofields, is seen during a World Youth Day pilgrim formation session. Image: Diocese of Parramatta

I’m also travelling with students I taught many years ago, such as Lucy Keene, who I remember as a seven-year-old at St Nicholas of Myra Primary, Penrith, and is now a Year 11 student at Xavier College, Llandilo.

Lucy says, “I’m really hoping to make a lot of friends but then also learn more about myself, learn about different things and grow as a person. I’m really excited to go to all the Churches and to see them all.”

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Lucy Keane (third left), a student pilgrim from Xavier College, Llandilo, is seen with her pilgrim group during a World Youth Day pilgrim formation session. Image: Diocese of Parramatta.

Young teachers and aspiring Religious Education Coordinators are also on the pilgrimage. Luigi Zucco, a teacher at St Agnes Catholic High School, Rooty Hill has never left Australia. He is looking forward to “walking in the footsteps of the Saints. It is something I’m going to cherish and I know is going to teach me many life lessons beyond school.”

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Luigi Zucco, a teacher pilgrim from St Agnes Catholic High School, Rooty Hill, is seen during a World Youth Day pilgrim formation session. Image: Diocese of Parramatta

I’m inspired by our pilgrims who have put their hands up through their parishes, such as Leonie Nahhas of Holy Spirit Parish, St Clair-Erskine Park. Leonie is preparing every day, “taking every opportunity to encounter Jesus daily, in quiet and little ways, to draw near to Him as a source of hope, encouragement and deeper revelation.”a

I know many parishes are helping our pilgrims with prayers and fundraising – Thank you!

We hope you will follow along with our pilgrimage at the website and subscribe to receive emailed updates. There’s plenty of spiritually enriching resources to explore on the official World Youth Day website as well. We look forward to bringing you highlights from this once-in-a-lifetime trip, which concludes with Bishop Vincent leading us for three days in Assisi, in the spirit of St Francis.a

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Diocesan pilgrims are seen during a World Youth Day pilgrim formation session at Novotel Sydney Rooty Hill. Image: Diocese of Parramatta

Following our pilgrims from home

The World Youth Day Pilgrimage from the Diocese of Parramatta is going to take our young pilgrims through some of the most beautiful and sacred parts of Europe.

You can follow along too, starting with our departure from Sydney on 21 July 2023.

We will be posting videos, photos and articles throughout the trip, so you can see and hear what our pilgrims are experiencing.

Starting in Paris, we celebrate Mass in the beautiful Sacré-Coeur, then visit the Daughters of Charity in the Rue du Bac and the chapels where the relics of St Catherine Labouré and St Vincent de Paul lie.

We will also explore Lourdes including Mass at the site where young St Bernadette saw Our Lady.

Each of the 21 days on pilgrimage is full of spiritual experiences, including the celebration of the Papal Mass with millions of other young people who share our faith on 6 August 2023.

  1. Sign up to our newsletter to receive the latest pilgrimage news as the pilgrims progress across Europe. Sign up now
  2. Check out the pilgrimage website which will be updated with pilgrimage news. Visit now
  3. Look up the World Youth Day Lisbon 2023 website for the programs and resources including the popular ‘WYD Minute’ video featuring the spiritual highlights of Portugal. View now

Virginia Fortunat is a Mission Partner at Catholic Schools Parramatta Diocese and is part of the Formation Team for the Diocese’s Pilgrimage for World Youth Day 2023 in Lisbon, Portugal, in August.

This article was originally published in the 2023 Ordinary Time | Winter edition of the Catholic Outlook Magazine. You can read the digital version here.