Melbourne’s World Youth Day journey officially gets underway this week, with the first pilgrimage group—the Footsteps of Jesus—scheduled to fly out on Wednesday 19 July. Fr Anil Mascherenhas, Assistant Parish Priest of St Kevin’s Hampton Park, is one of the bus leaders on the pilgrimage, and has more than 30 parishioners from St Kevin’s in tow. It’s one of the largest parish groups to attend an overseas World Youth Day from the Archdiocese.

‘We are blessed to have a parish filled with many young families, and we had more than a year’s preparation for this WYD pilgrimage,’ Fr Anil shares. While 33 pilgrims are attending as part of the Archdiocese’s pilgrimage, a few more are travelling as part of other national groups such as Jesus Youth.

Fr Anil said he and the pilgrims have been overwhelmed by the support shown by their parish community. ‘Over the last year we have had spiritual, social and fundraising events for the youth, where our parish community came together as one family to enable them to embark on this great opportunity,’ he said. The pilgrimage to World Youth Day was seen as a whole-parish endeavour, with families assisting the youth to raise more than $90,000 to go towards pilgrimage costs through fundraising events like dances, trivia nights, bake sales and more.

‘This whole preparation not only brought our young people closer to their faith and the Church but also brought our parish families together, which enriched the vibrancy of our parish,’ Fr Anil explains. And the pilgrims played their part, he says, committing to a series of spiritual preparation sessions over the past year, attending retreats, youth gatherings and regular Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and participating in the Pentecost Vigil.

The Footsteps of Jesus pilgrimage group will fly into Israel and head to Bethlehem, from where they will begin their exploration of the places that were central to Jesus’ life and ministry. One of the St Kevin’s pilgrims said she is looking forward to visiting the Holy Land for the first time and seeing the gospels come to life.

‘I thought that visiting the Holy Land would be something I would do when I’m retired, but now is a great opportunity with a big group of my friends from St Kevin’s Parish. When I return home and in church, I can visualise and connect more with the gospel readings because I will have been there!’

Fr Anil said he’s looking forward to supporting the pilgrims as they deepen their understanding of their faith. ‘I am excited to be their fellow pilgrim and to accompany them on their journey of faith in this Footsteps of Jesus pilgrimage. Our young people made attending World Youth Day their priority, and so I am excited to witness how they will encounter Jesus in various ways.’

He hopes that the World Youth Day experience will ‘boost their love for the faith, and in particular their relationship with Jesus’.

‘World Youth Day offers young people a lively and joyful experience of faith and communion,’ he says. ‘It offers a space to experience the beauty of the face of God. And as their bus leader, I am humbled by this opportunity to serve our young people on this pilgrimage in whatever way I can.’

2023 07 16 WYD Pilgrim Walk CLC CAM 14
The pilgrims from St Kevin’s Catholic Parish, Hampton Park.