As part of their program of formation, participants on the Emerging Leaders pilgrimage through Rome en route to World Youth Day 2023 recently had the opportunity to sit down with Archbishop Rino Fisichella (Pro-Prefect of the Dicastery of Evangelisation) and Sr Nathalie Becquart XMCJ (Undersecretary of the Synod of Bishops) to hear their experiences in ministry and evangelisation.

In her talk, Sr Nathalie, who has previously spoken in Melbourne on the theme of ‘synodality as mission’, explored the idea of drawing people into an encounter with God through the love of Jesus Christ. She focused especially on the need for leaders to be willing to listen and take the kinds of risks that come with being ‘pilgrims on the road’.

The act of listening serves the Church’s mission to teach and evangelise, she said. ‘As a teacher … if you don’t know your students, if you don’t understand them and listen to them, you can teach them, but if you don’t speak their language, they won’t learn.’

During Sr Nathalie’s conversation with the pilgrims, she reflected on her love of sailing and what it has taught her about the church. One pilgrimage she led was a ten-day sailing pilgrimage through the Mediterranean that came with several challenges along the way.

We were doing everything on the boat: eating, sleeping, sharing and praying. And I have been contemplating how the young people who were there, and also me, were transformed and experiencing a very deep joy and consolation.

This ‘experiencing life with a crew’ led her to understand that ‘that is the Church,’ she said. ‘The Church is like being all together, a crew, to journey with Christ on the sea of the world.’

Sailing as a crew also challenges a person’s vulnerabilities. ‘On a boat, you can’t just have a kind of mask, a false identity … You are called to be true.’ Although everyone has their unique gifts to share, we all have our own ‘broken parts’ too, and our response is often to ‘protect’ ourselves instead of entering into a ‘true relationship’.

This kind of relationship, ‘it’s a risk, because you will be transformed.’

In his conversation with the Emerging Leaders participants, Archbishop Rino reflected on evangelisation and how important it is for the Church to take up the responsibility to share the Gospel. If people do not believe in God, he said, it is because they do not know God. If people do not know God, that is because people are not talking about God.

This resonated with pilgrim Joe Melham, who found the talk ‘really inspiring, and just another encouragement for me to really proclaim the faith well, and not just proclaim, but just to be a good witness to the faith.’

Marisa, a teacher from St Augustine’s Catholic Primary School in Yarraville, said it was Archbishop Rino’s advice on the simplicity of prayer that stuck with her:

‘He spoke of silence being a really important way of prayer and reflection, and we’ve been practising that a lot as we travel through our Emerging Leaders program. It’s such a simple thing to do, and I will try to do that with my students when I return home.’

Pilgrims on the Emerging Leaders program have since left Rome and have been exploring Assisi, before heading to Lisbon to join the larger Melbourne pilgrimage group for the 16th international World Youth Day.

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