Pilgrims came from all across the globe to Sydney for World Youth Day. Here are a few of their stories.
Tujai Maru, 26, from the northern part of Myanmar:
Maru was one of a group of 33 pilgrims, three nuns, and six priests from the country of Myanmar. He knew little English, but desired to express on behalf of the group why they came to World Youth Day. “We wanted to see the Pope,” said Maru. “We also wanted to see what the other youth of the world are doing and be here with them.”
Carlie Frye, 25, Fresno, Calif.:
A high school religion teacher, Frye said that World Youth Day in Sydney was her first World Youth Day. Not even an 18-hour plane delay could deter her enthusiasm for the event.
“I want to be aware of the climate of the youth of the world,” Frye said. She sees the event as a kind of personal and professional retreat. She said that she wasn’t in touch with her faith and previous international World Youth Day gatherings until she became a religion teacher three years ago.
“I pray for greater courage to be a witness,” she said after participating in a public Mass at an airline ticketing counter after her flight was delayed. “It was surprisingly easy.”
She hopes to pass along what she experiences to her students.
“I hope to bottle up the energy from WYD and take it back for my students,” she said. “It will be neat to be buoyed up by the camaraderie of so many other Catholics.”
Father Vinod George, priest of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Diocese of Chicago:
Father George led a group of 20 children of Indian immigrants. This is his first World Youth Day. He hopes to use the event as a way to reach out to youth in his new capacity in youth ministry.
“I want to learn how the youth perceive the world,” said Father George. “Growing up in American culture, they experience a lot of tension.”
Sunil K. Nadarajan, Syro-Malabar Catholic Diocese of Chicago:
A Hindu convert to the Catholic faith, Nadarajan attended World Youth Day in both Toronto, Ontario, and Cologne, Germany. He said that he came to the Catholic Church through the tradition of the sacraments, prayer and Eucharistic adoration. In Toronto, he brought a group of nearly 80 Indian youth.
“The Indian youth are experiencing an identity crisis,” said Nadarajan. “American culture doesn’t emphasize family in the same way that India does.”
Nadarajan said that the youth had a wonderful experience of faith at World Youth Day in Toronto.
“Their hearts were throbbing for Jesus,” he said. “The beauty of seeing people from all the different countries and languages participating, it was like each person experienced a conversion. They were able to say, ‘I’m not a minority,’ and they came back.”
Because of that experience, he continues to bring young people to World Youth Day.
Emma Garrick, 22, and Brendan Garrick, 17, Wellington, New Zealand:
Parishioners at St. Patrick’s in Wainuiomata, siblings Emma and Brendan are two of 4,000 New Zealand pilgrims participating in World Youth Day 2008. Emma said that she wanted to come so that it could “speak to my faith and I could see other Catholics. There aren’t that many Catholic youth in my parish.”
Brendan hoped that the event would help him discover what it means to be Christian. “The different perspective of all the youth from around the world will give me a new light on my faith,” Brendan said. They both looked forward to the Saturday evening vigil and final Mass at Randwick Racecourse.
Said Emma, “Being with all those Catholic youths … I can’t comprehend what it will be like.”