First published in the Herald Sun on 20 July 2016.
More than 3000 Australian youth are brimming with excitement at the prospect of attending a Papal mass with 2.5 million devoted Catholics in Poland.
Among Victorians heading to World Youth Day in Krakow are five students from Catholic Regional College Sydenham.
Andrew Owen, 16, said he had travelled overseas before but this would be different: He had a spiritual purpose.
“It’s not a holiday. It’s not a time for us to relax. It’s time for us to build connections, to think, reflect and be spiritual with other people. It’s about understanding our faith better,” Andrew said.
The students agreed seeing Pope Francis and celebrating the open air mass would be the highlight.
Geraldine Vytilingam, 16, said: “It’s literally a dream come true. I’m really excited to meet Pope Francis. I think he is an incredible example of mercy.”
Lorenzo Atonio, 17, said: “To see him in person is something special and something that I will remember for a long time.”
Maree Calleja, 16, was also looking forward to the atmosphere of millions of Catholics coming together. She had seen Pope Francis at the Vatican. “It’s really touching.”
And was Alex Celestial, 16, excited to see the Pope?
“Absolutely,” he said. They leave on Friday.
Twenty bishops, 120 priests and 26 religious sisters from Australia are going.
Bishop Mark Edwards, chaplain to a group of 327 Victorians aged 16-36, said the “pilgrims” would attend the Papal mass on Sunday, July 31 after walking about 15km Krakow to a huge park on the city’s outskirts and sleeping out in the open.
“I want them to have a powerful experience, possibly even life-changing.”
About 130 Victorian secondary students are attending, most with financial support from Catholic Education.
Executive Director Stephen Elder said students would feel the “awesome power” of being part of the international Church.