World Youth Day Lisbon the ‘experience of a lifetime’

By Josh Low

Since its commencement in 1987, World Youth Day (WYD) has left a great impression on the countless people who have attended, along with memories to last a lifetime.

Following their return from the hustle and bustle of their WYD pilgrimage, Natasha Woods, Max Hodge and Lukas Bird spoke to the Catholic Standard about their first time in attendance.

Ulverstone parishioner Natasha Woods, who also works in Catholic education, said the trip was ‘an experience of a lifetime’.

Beginning the pilgrimage in Rome and the Vatican City, Natasha said visiting the many sites like St Peter’s Basilica, Colosseum, Sistine Chapel and Vatican Museums a great way to start the trip.

“It was an incredible start to the journey connecting with the rich Catholic history that is evident all throughout the city,” she said.

“After Rome we travelled to Lisbon, Portugal for the WYD celebrations, [which] was an incredible experience.

“Everywhere you went, there were people from all over the world, all here for the same reason.

“I could write forever about my week in Lisbon – it was so incredible to be involved in something so huge that it is difficult to put into words.

“It was an experience of a lifetime that has deepened my connection with the Church and my faith,” she said.

Something which stood out to her from WYD was a talk on prayer at one of the morning catechesis sessions.

“We had a really good talk one morning at catechesis about prayer and the importance of prayer, including the many different ways that people pray.

“It really put into perspective the small ways that some people might pray, as well as the larger ways such as through Eucharistic Adoration,” she said.

Archbishop Julian strongly encouraged the agencies of the Archdiocese to send pilgrims to World Youth Day. In response, St Joseph Affordable Homes sent along two of their apprentices, Max Hodge and Lukas Bird.

Despite little to no exposure to Catholic faith and traditions, Max and Lukas both said the pilgrimage met or even exceeded their expectations.

For Lukas, walking the to the final Mass among millions of people was a highlight he described as ‘challenging but worth it’.

“[World Youth Day] exceeded my expectations; I didn’t really have high expectations and was blown away about how many young people still practice the faith,” he said.

Amidst the busy schedule and travel between countries, Lukas became ill, but pushed through to make the most of the experience.

He learnt more about Catholicism, practicing the faith, and through the connections forged with the other pilgrims, more about their own personal journeys of faith.

Max (left) and Lukas (right) in Fatima. The duo both said the pilgrimage exceeded their expectations. Photo: Heather Excell

“The experience has taught me more about the faith and how to open yourself to God and other Catholics, [and helped] me make friends with people of the faith and get to experience how they pray together in Mass and other religious prayers,” he said.

Max said his only expectations were to learn more about the Church, travel safely and enjoy the experience.

“A challenge for me personally, was that I had no knowledge of the Church and at times I felt lost and unsure how to act and what to do during times like Mass,” he explained.

Max added that his World Youth Day experience was the first time he has been exposed to any sort of religion.

“It made me start thinking of life in ways I didn’t before, and I do feel like I have grown into a better person from the experience of WYD.

“It really put into perspective how many people the Church does help, and how much good they do.

“The experience has totally changed how I see the Church and faith, and I got to hear so many people’s experiences with faith and how it is so different from person to person.

“I really can’t start to put into words how much I learnt.

“I had no idea about anything coming into the pilgrimage. I do have some knowledge now, but I know I have only scratched the surface,” he said.

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