Naiara’s WYD experience!
I just want to start off by first thanking Fr. Francis, Fr. Mariusz and my amazing Parish for giving me the opportunity to go to Lisbon, Portugal to celebrate WYD. I truly thank you for all your contributions whether it was donations, time, or prayers I really appreciate every one of you and prayed for you while I was on the pilgrimage. Honestly, I don’t know how to put into words my experience or gratitude for my Parish, family and friends including the ones I made at WYD, but I will attempt to. The pilgrimage was a very incredible, powerful, and eye-opening experience. I learnt so much and can confidently say that it had the biggest impact on my faith.

Marcus and I went with the Salvatorian Group. There were about 20 of us as we were joined with other Salvatorian pilgrims from Perth, Sydney and Adelaide including Fr. Greg from Gosford Parish in Sydney. I loved my group so much; we all connected on a very deep level, and we were like a family from day one. We all impacted and inspired each other greatly through God’s grace and all of us learnt and grew an incredible amount from each other through the many conversations, trials, and challenges we went through together. Our group had a diverse age range but regardless because we all had a similar faith maturity it didn’t matter about the age and I personally had never experienced friendships like this before, where we had such a beautiful family-like bond in a matter of two and half weeks. The topic of prayer was often talked about within our group, and I gained many helpful insights as I used to really struggle with praying but since the pilgrimage, my prayer life has increased hugely, and I have fallen in love with my faith in a more mature way.

We spent three days in Rome, visiting many churches, basilicas and great holy places including St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, the Catacombs, the Colosseum, the Crypt, St. Paul Outside the Wall Basilica, St. Mary Major Basilica, the Salvatorian Motherhouse and many more places. I felt quite homesick for these first few days but every time I walked into a church and prayed, I felt like I was home which made me realise that no matter where you are in the world, the Church and our faith always connect us back to home. Visiting the Catacombs and the tomb of St. Cecilia was very special for me because she is one of my favourite saints, her story is beautifully inspiring, so seeing where she was buried brought me to tears as I felt so close to her.

We then flew to Lisbon in beautiful Portugal for the WYD celebrations. Apart from massive queues, packed public transport and a heatwave that hit Europe, it was an insanely wonderful experience. Just seeing and meeting so many young Catholics, all coming together for the same faith was eye-opening and heartwarming, especially for the last night of celebrations when 1.5 million Catholics slept under the stars together. It was like nothing I could’ve ever imagined experiencing. It really gave me hope for the Church. I attended many of the different workshops and talks that were presented which were awesome. I got a lot out of them and have come back definitely inspired to want to do more for this beautiful Parish – I have a few ideas already in mind.

We then made our way by bus to Fatima. This small town in Portugal was unbelievable. I truly felt Our Lady’s presence there. From seeing so many shops wherever you looked filled with statues of Mary and other holy objects to actually visiting the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, the little house of the three children, the Church they were baptised in and then to top it all off praying the rosary in Portuguese every evening, all holding candles, with hundreds of other Catholics to honour and pray to Our Gracious Mother. It pierced my heart with love, joy and peace. Fatima was the perfect place to reflect on the pilgrimage and the events of WYD, it was very sad to leave and come back home but I will forever have these memories to remember such a beautiful experience.