• Steph Unger

All there for different reasons, yet all united - A reflection by Alice Foddy

**This reflection has been written by Alice Foddy - teacher at St. Mary's College Maryborough**

Whenever I leave Australia to go travelling, I always hope to learn about other people, how they live, how they pray, what they do, what they believe. But most times I end up learning more about myself. From the age of 13 I wanted to go to World Youth Day, and I had many people telling me how absolutely life changing and amazing it was. My WYD experience certainly was, but in ways that I never expected.

I was struck and moved by the power of 700 000 people kneeling in silence during adoration. Throughout adoration, I was in deep conversation with God for most of the time. Several minutes before it ended, I listened to the silence and was awestruck at how peaceful it had become. At other times, I was challenged when I felt it difficult to connect and be close to God during mass due to the number of people around me. But in all of these experiences, I learnt that for me, intimacy is important when I need to talk to God. Before WYD while travelling in LA and through Colon, I talked with God more during the small intimate masses with our group, and the silent prayer opportunities that I had while on a hammock looking up at the treetops and the sky.

One of my highlights was the Vigil sleepout. I brought along with me a yoga mat and sleeping bag. The ground was hard and dusty. I couldn’t help but be reminded during that time of the homeless and poor men and women that I have encountered in previous travel. I thanked God every minute that I knew I had a bed and roof to go home to. Even when I woke during the night and I saw the moon in its silvery glory, I felt blessed and at peace. I also came to realise in that moment, that it is through living my faith that I become closer to God. That is when I work to help the environment and am of service to others less fortunate than myself.

As a very introverted person, I struggle sometimes with large groups of people. It takes a lot of energy to be around lots of people all of the time. In the past when I have travelled, I had really struggled with this, and I was incredibly nervous about this aspect of the pilgrimage. Throughout the Pilgrimage, as a group of 33 we grew incredibly close. Even though we were all there for different reasons, we were all united. Nothing exemplifies this growth more than the difference between how we sung together in our first mass together, vs how we sung together at our final mass. I love Church music. On the first mass everyone was nervous and we struggled with the words. During our final mass we all belted out the songs we had learnt throughout our time at the top of our lungs in perfect unison, united in one voice. I felt incredibly sad to leave this amazing group of people and didn’t want the experience to end. I wanted to keep walking together.

I am incredibly grateful for the experience that I had at WYD and all of those who made it happen. I am grateful for the Pope that we have and his ability to unite others, challenge their beliefs, and inspire so many into action. I am grateful and proud that my parents baptised me into the Catholic faith, a religion that is able to unite people from many many countries in prayer. I am grateful for Mary and her ‘yes’ to God that produced her amazing son Jesus and I pray to be like her.

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