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Preparing for Portugal


Five young Adelaide Marists are anticipating the faith event of a lifetime as they prepare to attend World Youth Day (WYD) in Lisbon, Portugal, later this year.

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Sara Petruzzella and her sister Leila, Liv Carver, Cara McGlaughlin and Aisling McCorry will all participate in Marist Youth Ministry’s (MYM) pilgrimage from Australia to Lisbon to attend the International Gathering of Marist Youth at the end of July, followed by WYD events from August 1-6.

For the five Sacred Heart College graduates, the opportunity to join the more than 400,000 young Catholics expected for the week-long festival of prayer, sharing and leisure activities is a dream come true and a significant step in their faith journey.

The oldest member of the Adelaide Marist contingent, Sara, 26, said she had wanted to attend WYD ever since it was held in Sydney in 2008. As an 11 year old she was “intrigued and amazed” by such a large group of young people coming together to share their faith experiences.

“I asked my mum to buy me a WYD shirt and wore it all the time for ages,” she laughed.

“Since turning 18 I have wanted to attend a WYD but unfortunately it never fell into place with uni and work commitments. When I saw it was announced for Portugal in 2023 I knew I had to finally make it happen this time – the call was so strong.

“I am overwhelmingly excited to attend WYD in my Marist Community and to connect with my faith on a different and deeper level than ever before.

“I look forward to meeting young Catholics from all over the world with different cultures, life experiences and understandings of faith and to learn and grow with them.”

The Year 1-2 primary teacher at Antonio Catholic School said it was also going to be special to attend WYD with Pope Francis, who is in the tenth year of his papacy.

“His respect and love for young people and the environment pulls into focus the reality of our world today and how that will affect our future as both a Church and society,” she added.

“The reality of our modern world is that lay people are becoming more and more important to the future of our Church, as less young people decide to choose a religious vocation.

“For the Church to move forward with future generations we need to be open to what lay people, young people and women in particular can bring to the Church and we need to change to accommodate this.”

Younger sister Leila, 23, is also excited about the opportunity to connect with other young Catholics and fellow Marists. The Brighton parishioner, who is involved with Young Marist Professionals and is the Year 12 Game Changers mentor for MYM at Sacred Heart College, said she was looking forward to experiencing prayer and evangelisation “on such a large scale” and discussing important issues in the Church and world today.

“The Church has adapted and changed so much as young people begin to bring forward issues that may have not been acknowledged in the past,” she said.

“World Youth Day is the perfect opportunity for these issues to be recognised in a global setting and for change to truly begin to be made.

“Our generation is the future of the Church so I think it’s important we begin to establish the kind of Church we need.”

Cara, 23, who attends Nativity Church at Aberfoyle Park, said a majority of her ministry and faith formation as a young person had taken place within the Marist space so it was an “incredible privilege” to be part of the pilgrimage.

“Today I find the Church itself too often to be a difficult place to be as a young person, and not one of which I am always proud to call myself a part,” she said.

“My current position finds me often searching for direction and leading me to the conclusion that at these crossroads, we can either opt to move towards new, more progressive horizons in a secular space, or we can persist. So I am nervously excited for the opportunities that may come out of WYD and the International Gathering of Marist Youth beforehand, and how they might encourage me to continue to persist.”

Anticipating that the team of Marist pilgrims will bring a “disruptive edge” to their encounters in Lisbon, Cara said it was important now more than ever “to initiate difficult conversations about the change we urgently need to see and the inclusivity that is so desperately needed for our Church”.

“I hope this feeling of being challenged will lead to calls for reform in our faith on an institutional and spiritual level,” she said. “A faith challenged is a faith deepened; I believe we can action this ideal structurally for the Church too.”

A member of the Brighton parish, Liv, 23, is hoping her participation in WYD will allow her to “grow in my faith and feel my sense of community broaden”.

“My faith has always grown the most from experiences with the broader community – live music, Taize worship and communal prayer have been key in my journey,” she explained.

“I can’t wait for these experiences at WYD and see how they strengthen my faith.”

The fifth member of the group, Brighton parishioner Aisling McCorry, 23, believes WYD will be a “once in a lifetime” experience.

“I am thrilled to be a part of a universal and international Catholic festival with like-minded young people and I cannot wait to experience the atmosphere,” she said. “It will be exciting to learn and gain a sense of hope by having encounters with old friends as well as new acquaintances.”

While many young Catholics from Australia will be venturing to Lisbon, the Catholic Office for Youth and Young Adults is preparing a series of events to celebrate WYD in the Adelaide Archdiocese. They include Ecological Action – tree planting day, August 4 at Victoria Park wetlands; Rise Up – workshop with Gianna Lucas on August 5 (afternoon); and Liturgy and Praise and Worship celebration (evening) at Sacred Heart College. More details to follow in the coming weeks.

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