Bus 9

Bus 9 departs Sydney for our WYD2013 experience early on Thursday morning, headed for Santiago, the capital of Chile. We will spend four days in Santiago surrounded by the snow-capped mountains of the magnificent Andes.

During our stay here we will spend a day with a Mission Community in Maipo, on the outskirts of Santiago, working alongside the parishioners painting and cleaning the parish building. Our day together will culminate in the celebration of the Eucharist. We will also have the opportunity to visit many of the pilgrimage sites in Santiago, including the iconic hill of San Cristobal that overlooks the city, the Metropolitan Cathedral containing a recumbent wooden statue of San Francisco Javier, and the San Francisco Church and Museum, the oldest church in Santiago.

Our group consists of students, teachers and clergy from across our Archdiocese including St Aloysius College, Milsons Point, Our Lady of Mercy College Burraneer Bay, DLSalle College Cronulla, DLSalle CollegeCaringbah, All Saints Senior College Casula and St Vincent’s College Potts Point.  We are extremely blessed to have Fr Peter Hosking SJ and Auxiliary Bishop of Sydney Terry Brady to provide us with spiritual guidance during our pilgrimage. The teachers on Bus 9 are Mr Joe El-KhouryMr Kamil  Mrowka SJ, Mrs HelenaChristoforidis and Mr Christopher Pocock.

We are all very excited about the experiences and personal opportunities that lay ahead of us both pre, during and post WYD. Your prayers and messages of encouragement and support will be most welcomed during our pilgrimage.

Ms Jenny Foldes (Bus Leader)

Greetings from Bus 9!

We arrived in Santiago, Chile earlier today after a very long flight via Auckland with plenty of turbulence to keep us awake. We were met at the airport by our friendly guide Judith and the familiar face of fellow Aussie Sam Clear from Harvest who escorted us to our accommodation house under the warm hospitality of the Servant Sisters of the Holy Spirit. Fr Peter and Bishop Terry lead our first celebration of the Eucharist in the very quaint little chapel.

Most pilgrims are asleep now (10:00pm local time) while a few persistent conversations continue in a few rooms.

Tomorrow we embark on a day tour of Santiago with the opportunity to visit the shrine of St Alberto Hurtado a Chilean Jesuit Saint. Our location is surrounded by the snow capped Andes Mountains in the distance. Wifi opportunities are limited and we will look for every possibility to keep this blog updated. Spirits are high (just a little exhausted today though) and we all send our love to families, friends and school communities back home. And we would love to get your messages!

Best wishes
Jenny Foldes & Joe El-Khou

Frozen in Awe

Our day was lucky enough to be filled with the wonderful sites that Chile has to offer. We made our way to the bus at 9:30am, which was still too early for some as the jet-lag set in. A short bus trip later and we were in the city centre and we were in Santiago city centre.
Ahead of us was the stunning Metropolitan Cathedral. Inside we were greeted with beautiful statues of many icons and statues of the saints as well as religious items. My personal favourite was an Image of Joseph and Jesus as a child. Many of us then were delighted by the rosary beads available made by the local people. Another surprise was the amount of stray dogs which strolled the city centre, which were not greeted with as much delight.

We then continued to the Sanctuary of St Alberto Hurtado. It was a tranquil place were we were all able to reflect the life of a wonderful saint. St Alberto Hurtado had a big soft spot for the plight of young people and was passionate about workers. All of us were inspired by his work and it allowed us to really recognise a saint that may of us haven’t meet before.

Soon after we travelled to San Cristobal Hill where a statue of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception has been placed. After a quick travel up the funicular and 200 steps later we were all frozen in awe, both by the cold and the spectacular statue. We then finished our trip at the supermarket due to the cries of many of us about the starvation that had set in, and a brisk walk back to our home away from home for mass and a dinner of chicken schnitzel and chips, which made us all very happy!

Victoria-Rose & Taylor-Minnett
Our Lady of Mercy Catholic College, Burraneer.

Day 1– Thursday 18 July

Sydney to Santiago - Nicholas Paton and Konrad Stilin

Arriving at Sydney Airport at 6.30 am, there was an atmosphere of excitement among the group of pilgrims wearing their WYD t-shirts. The 15 students from Aloysius gathered, with their parents and students from other Sydney Catholic schools. As we met at Sydney Airport for our World Youth Day Pilgrimage there was a tangible mixture of excitement, nervousness and hope filled enthusiasm.  Parents were extremely positive in their hopes for their sons and amidst the hugs and goodbyes there was some sadness at leaving each other for the next 18 days.

Our excitement though exteriorly contained, internally was vibrant, in particular in the knowledge of how World Youth Day has the power to transform lives.  Fr Peter and Mr El-Khoury reminded us that through a mixture of faith, fun filled activities, bonding with peers, group and personal reflections, youth festivals, all intertwining with the traditions and sacraments of the Catholic Church, culminate in what is an experience of a lifetime. This experience will, we hope, give each pilgrim the opportunity to encounter the greater or the deeper – the Magis. The greater in each of us, in each other and in the ultimate Other - God’s self. So, as we began, our prayer was:

Loving Lord,
You who are eternally present in all ages and times.
We ask that your guiding love lead us to the deeper knowledge
that we are born to relate fully, deeply and completely.
May our hearts be open to your voice
and may our minds widen to understand the world more fully.
Our hope is that you Loving Lord will be the source and spring
from which all things flow in our lives.
Most of all may you be glorified,
in particular during this time
towards World Youth Day in Rio 2013.

Taking up a large number of rows, our LAN 800 first stopover was in Auckland. The three hour plane ride was a mere test drive for the long 12 hour flight to come. After a stretch of the legs, we were back on the plane for the flight to Santiago.  The sunset and sunrise out of the side windows were beautiful, graced with a series of vibrant rainbows across the sky. As the day wore on, we were conscious that we had been in the same clothes for almost a day. We watched movies, tried to sleep and used the time to consider all that was ahead. Finally we were rewarded with the stunning sights of the Andes Mountains and began our descent into Santiago airport. 

We embarked from the plane into the cool crisp air of the Chilean landscape. Everyone was buzzing with excitement - albeit tinged with some anxiety. After waiting while passports were stamped and collected, we made contact with our guide and bus driver. During the 40 minute bus ride to our accommodation we were accompanied by a lovely local called Judith who explained some information about the city to us. The city itself was indeed scattered, with high rise buildings looming over the streets and with condensed slums lining the roads.  Chile has a population of 18 million people and some seven million live in Santiago. Houses and high rise offices envelope the surrounding area. The sights caused a mixture of emotions within us as the confronting poorer neighborhoods juxtaposed the heavily fenced off houses.  There was a feeling of tiredness from the flight and contented happiness that we were finally beginning our world youth day experience. We finally arrived at our accommodation which was a Convent with a retreat house. We were greeted with open hospitality by the Sister and paired with another into small, quaint rooms with just enough space to stand. It was different to what many of us are used to at home but probably like most retreat houses around the world. We had wanted some sacrifices to truly enrich ourselves in the experience.

Once settled into our rooms, we had a briefing with our teachers and some afternoon tea.  It was about 2.00am back home. Some then decided to have a short sleep while others went for a little walk down to the local shopping centre. Many went to McDonalds for a feed and an opportunity to practice our Spanish. We were pleasantly surprised by the hospitality of the locals, who barely knew us, but welcomed us Australian strangers accepting our loud voices and bravados. Even with such a restrictive language the group managed to effectively engage with the people of the city.  It was a nice sharing and the sense of forming a connection with people and the city was more real. 

The 40 of us then gathered for a very personal mass concelebrated by Fr Peter and Bishop Brady. Nick Paton and others sang and the final song Amazing Grace was sung by all with great solidarity.  Fr Peter spoke about Catholic identity and how our community, sense of spirituality and desire for mission shapes this. There was great silence and respect from all the students during the mass. Most sat on cushions scattered around the floor and others on chairs against the wall. The room itself was quite beautiful with many depictions of Jesus Christ through paintings and sculpture, as well as an old wooden chair for the priest with angling edges and sides. Our prayers of the faithful were personal and we sat together in meditative silence.  It was a moment of grace – what the Eucharist should be. 

New friendships are being shaped within the group and a sense of unity amongst our new companions is being formed. All in all, the first day although a long and tiring one because of the distance we flew, truly connected, not only the group together but also the individual’s connection to God.  We have begun our own personal journey and also our journey together as a group on the way to world youth day.

Day 2 – Friday 19 July

Santiago – Tour of some city sights: Jack Johnson, Michael Manato and Konrad Stilin

We woke in the retreat house about 7.30am. It was just getting light. Many had woken at 4.00am – such are the effects of jet lag. Breakfast was served at 8.30. We enjoyed the scrambled eggs and fresh hot rolls that the nuns had cooked for us. The bus arrived at 9.30 to take us to see some of the sites of Santiago. At dinner last night we had been asked to sit next to someone we did not know. This helped break down some of the walls - so often we presume our right to privacy rather than assuming an obligation to sociability.

On the bus we mixed easily. We learnt from Judith, our tour guide that Santiago had many indigenous groups and in the early 1500s the Spaniards colonized it. Many of the soldiers married Indian women and today 90% of Chileans have Indian ancestry. Chile achieved independence from Spain in 1810 and Bernard O’Higgins of Irish background was a key player. On September 11, 1973 there was a coup d’état and the elected President Allende was killed most likely by self-administered poison. The CIA were said to be responsible for the coup. The effect of which was to put Pinochet in power for the next 17 years. His regime was responsible for horrific human rights abuses.

Our first stop was the main square where there were government buildings. It was a surprise to see many stray dogs in the streets of Chile which compared to Australia there are rarely any stray dogs seen. After watching the stray dogs including a dog fight, we visited the Cathedral church of Santiago. First built in 1561 the building has been rebuilt several times. The architects in the 1748 version were Jesuits. It has had recent renovations due to a recent Earthquake which destroyed parts of the cathedral. Chile has many earthquakes but most do not cause great damage. The buildings have been designed to withstand damage from tremours. Inside there are statues of Mary, Jesus and other saints of Chile including the recently canonized Jesuit saint, Alberto Hurtado. We admired the artworks, murals and stain glass windows. Most of us spent some quiet moments in prayer making this visit a more profound experience. There were confessional boxes throughout the cathedral which were open and priests were hearing the confessions of people. There was a small mass in a side chapel of the Cathedral. Outside also had its own charm with buskers standing at the front doors, pretending to be statues as well as the police giving us a welcoming smile. Stray dogs weaved in and out of our group and the noises of the busy city square engulfed our ears.

We then drove in the bus to the Santuario Del Padre Hurtado. He was a Jesuit born in 1901 who died in 1552. He worked with the poor and the forgotten people of Chile. This is a place that provides care and accommodation for elderly and homeless people. We visited a small chapel which displayed a large floor to ceiling painting of Jesus in the Gospel scene of the Sermon on the Mount. It was painted by one of the many local street kids which Alberto helped educate and accommodate. He was buried here until 1995 and there is still a finger bone of Alberto encased within solid glass reliquary as a memorial to his original resting place. It is a sacred symbol to which the people within the community pray. We then traversed a spiraled walkway surrounded by flowing ponds and various statues and photographic stories of the saint himself. We entered a very serene building which cut off most of the city noise. A tranquil silence fell upon the group. Inside the room was the final resting place of Alberto represented by a slab of earth in the middle of the room. This was quite special to the Aloysius boys as Alberto was a Jesuit and a man who thoroughly helped his community much like the students at our school are encouraged to do, to be “men for others”. We were fortunate to enter the recently built museum for Alberto within the complex, complete with many different items he used within his life. These involved such things as his iconic car, in which he would collect the homeless off the street and help give them education as well as a home. It had his old typewriter which created many journals and influential writings touching upon a range of social issues and religious matters. Some of his major projects involved building homes made from basic materials in struggling communities. He organized services to the most needy and assisted approximately a million beneficiaries. All of these houses followed similar design and could be found in other countries including Uruguay to Haiti. Alberto was beatified in 1994 and made a saint in 2005.

Next we visited the statue of the Virgin Mary on top of San Cristobel mountain in Santiago, this involved traversing up the mountain side in a Funicular or cable car. During the ride up we were able to catch glimpses of the enormous city through the obscuring fog, showing off all the city suburbs and its expansion further into the countryside. It was interesting and impressive to see just how far the city had expanded and how large it had become. When we reached the top we were greeted with the smells of caramel popcorn wafting from the vendors’ stalls. We passed through a beautiful garden before reaching the statue of the Virgin Mary itself. It was astounding to see such a large statue on one of the highest peaks surrounding Santiago. It reminded us how the people wanted Mary to watch over their city.

More stray dogs made an appearance, almost magically appearing beneath our feet at any given moment yearning for a pat. When we reached the handicraft area at the bottom of the Funicular, we came across a local llama in the streets, decked out with a mini sombrero and a large colourful blanket on its back. Needless to say a lot of pictures were taken with this creature, majestic sombrero. It actually cost us a 1000pesos to have a group photo with the lama. The bus rides between the areas were connective, with music gently playing in the background as the boys and girls shared stories and experienced this journey together. Unfortunately our last planned destination for the day at handy the handy craft market had to be cancelled due to being caught in traffic. It was a good reminder that we are not just tourists. This allowed us time to go to a local supermarket to buy some supplies. This gave us an insight small into the everyday life of a Chilean middle class person, milling over the different items and range of brands which stocked the shelves, all accompanied with raps by Tupac Shakur blaring through the speakers. This is what makes the pilgrimage experiences, the most simple of interactions with the country together. This helps to form more solid and deeper friendships and gives us a better understanding of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.

We had a lovely Eucharist thinking about who is Jesus for me. At the end we were given a prayer to Saint Albert Hurtado. It went:

Apostle of Jesus Christ, devoted servant of the poor, friend of children and teacher of youth.We bless and thank God for the time you spent among us.You knew how to love and serve. 
You were a prophet of justice and a refuge for the needy and forsaken. 
With tender love you built a home to shelter Christ.
As a true father you call us to live our faith, 
responsibly, honestly and fraternally.
You guide us with enthusiasm to follow in the steps of the Master. 
You lead us to the Saviour for which the whole world longs.
Teach us how to live joyfully, even in the midst of difficulties. 
Show us how to overcome our selfishness, 
to live our lives for the sake of others.
Alberto Hurtado, child of Mary, son of the Church,
friend of God and of the poor, pray for us. Amen.

We had a filling meal of chicken schnitzel and chips. Then we spent half an hour in silence writing our journals followed by 30 minutes of sharing in our small groups trying to find meaning in our experience. This process of reflection is so important to help us understand what we are experiencing and to have a sense of where God is leading us.

San Cristobal

Dinner at retreat house

Day 3 – Saturday 20 July

Santiago – Visit to Maipo - Liam Crisanti and Austen Hunt

Many woke early and to keep the noise down Mr El-Khoury took some of those awake for a walk before breakfast.  The early morning Macca’s run brought the students together and developed a sense of bonding between the many school communities. Arriving back from this little adventure, the group was treated to a second breakfast provided by the ever hospitable sisters from the Casa Del Espiritu Santu. There was much friendly banter between pilgrims. We were greeted by three new members of our journey: Ryan - who would serve as an interpreter for the group as well as guide at the local Maipo community - and two students from the Santiago School, Ian and Jose. Ryan was from Arizona and had moved to Chile five years ago as a lay missionary.  He has been educated at the Jesuit Universities in Regis Colorado and Georgetown.  In Chile he has come to help educate those from the rich areas of Santiago, and share their lives with people from the poorer areas – something like our immersions at St Aloysius.

Today we visited a community 35kms south of the city at Maipo.  There was not much traffic as it was a Saturday.  Judith gave us some information about Chile on the way. People from the north tend to be wealthy while those in the south are poor.  The Indian word for those in the south is people of the earth. As we past the prison, Judith explained that money still counts if you want representation in the criminal justice system and many imprisoned are poor people unable to defend themselves.  Drugs - especially rum and marijuana - are common.  We saw several squatter areas where there was cheaper mud brick housing. There are 12 years in the education system beginning from the age of seven - 8 years in elementary school and four years of high school.  There is a big difference between public and private schools and most who attend private schools get into University.  The private Universities are well regarded and degrees in architecture, journalism and psychology are well regarded internationally.  40% of the economy is agricultural.  Grapes and apples are exported.  There is also an industry in nitrate, gold and silver.  Salmon fishing is another industry.

Maipo is a simple community and the Church is the centre of town.  The church was built in 1850 but Earthquakes in the 1950s, 1971 and 2010 have led to much reconstruction.  The 2010 earthquake left the church unstable so we are painting the outside wall of a community hall which has become the makeshift church.  This was the first time any of the pilgrims from Australia had visited the Maipo community. We were met by Father Domingo who introduced us to the church, its patron Saint Bernard and the community within. We saw the damage caused by the earthquake, of magnitude 8.8 on the Richter scale, in 2010.  We were informed that this earthquake had devastated the community of Maipo to the point where many buildings were destroyed beyond repair, including the church. We soon set out to begin work. Our work consisted of sanding, scraping and painting the exterior wall of the temporary church. Although it wasn’t a particular hard task, many students found it a little disappointing as we were hoping to have more direct contact with the community, in particular the kids. We were conscious of a sense of service for others during this time, as well as knowing that, although tedious, this work was helping the community. This made us feel more at one with the community empowering us to help those who relied on the church and its supporting columns.

After a very good session of painting and beginning to bond with the locals, we walked a short distance to a resident’s house to have lunch. The lunch was prepared by men and women in the community, with love, for us. It consisted of an entrée of empanadas and bread with tomato, basil and chilli sauce. The main course was chicken and pork, which was cooked tenderly to perfection. And finally the dessert was ice cream and pears. This was complemented by amazing traditional singing and dancing, which gave us a profound insight into the culture and cuisine of the Chilean people. The entertainment involved Chilean music and dance and the group performed a selection of traditional songs for us. The hospitality shown to us by the people of this small village far surpassed our expectations, and anything we could have even imagined.

By now it was already 4pm.  We returned to do another hour’s work.  At 5pm the community was preparing for the weekly rosary in the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception, or the Virgin Mary. This simple act of prayer showed the togetherness of the community, united through God’s power. The Rosary and 5:30pm Mass were celebrated in Spanish, with English translations. We all realised the differences and commonness between Mass in Australia compared to Chile. The local bishop together with Bishop Brady and Fr Peter concelebrated the mass with Fr Domingo’s the Parish Priest.  We donated some funds, which the St Aloysius’ students raised on behalf of our bus. The $2000 will help with social development projects and also assist with the reconstruction of the church.  We spent some time giving our newfound friends small gifts from Australia.

We are all deeply grateful and overwhelmed by the townspeople’s sense of love and abundant generosity towards each other as a neighbour. Our time in Maipo has really shown us the meaning of being Men and women for others. We realize that doing things for others, no matter how small, whether it be in the form of a small gift or the simple painting of a wall, if done with a loving heart, will touch another’s life.  The experience of companionship with people we had not met before today was very powerful.  During our journaling time, many reflected on what this experience means.

Day 4 – Sunday 21 July

Santiago - Sanctuary of St Teresa - Joshua Maas and Liam Shiel-Dick

After our journaling session last night at the Retreat House, we were informed of an unexpected change of plans. Twelve of our company, eight of the boys, one of the girls, and three of the teachers and mentors, would be leaving for Rio earlier than expected due to overbooking by the airline. Curiously, the names were decided by the airline. Sabrina from OLM, Lachlan Brimson, Liam Crisanti, Harrison Duncan, Austen Hunt, John Lewis, Tommy Lewis, Joshua Maas and Liam MacWhite, accompanied by Father Hosking, Mr El-Khoury and Bishop Brady, would all be leaving 12 hours earlier on the 1.00pm flight on Sunday. The rest of Bus Group 9 would spend an extra day in Santiago and leave as scheduled on the 1.00am flight on Monday morning with Kamil, Mrs Jenny, Mr Pocock and Miss Chris. While we were disappointed to break up the group we understood the difficulties that airlines must have transporting so many people at once. We were all sad to be leaving Chile where we had been welcomed with open arms by the people of Santiago and Maipo. 

After a good night's rest and a quick breakfast, the first group departed for the airport. They said goodbye to the rest of the group and Judith, our guide and friend in Santiago. We left with the people of Chile on our minds. We reflected on the amazing sense of welcome and hospitality they had given us. And, as we saw the beautiful vista of the Andes capped with snow from the windows of the plane, we not only pondered the unique and unforgettable experiences to which we had been treated in Santiago by the Chilean people, but also the next step in our journey, Rio and World Youth Day. The excitement that surrounded the thought of going to Rio was tangible. 

The rough and uncompromising Andes were quickly replaced by the flat sprawling fields and forests of South America as we travelled to the east. While we were nervous to enter yet another country, we were keen to experience what we had heard was one of the most spiritually moving events on earth. On our flight were many other Australians travelling to Rio for World Youth Day, giving us a sense of comfort and of home during our short four hour plane trip. 

As the bus travelled through Rio de Janeiro a sense of awe overcame the usually chatty group. As we passed through the place that we had been dreaming about for the past several months, it felt exhilarating to finally be here. The skewed distribution of wealth was immediately evident as we passed the community driven, culturally centred favelas and the expensive opera houses covered in gold and silver, one of the major issues for this beautiful country. 

We checked into Aussie Central where about 1,000 pilgrims will stay.  The group from the CEO Sydney schools are down at one end of a large pavilion.  Boys are in one area and girls in another with teachers in between.  We were one of the first groups to arrive so found our mattresses and helped get water for the groups to follow.  Mr El-Khoury and Father Peter took us out for a lovely dinner.  It took a while to find any eatery open but eventually near the beautiful Municipal Theatre we found a café and ordered pizzas.  On the way we bumped into old boy Michael Paton from last year's Year 12 who is with the group from Broken Bay Diocese. He asked after his brother, Nicholas, who was with the group still in Chile. As we returned it was getting late, and showers were in order. After this we helped out the management by sorting and organising the bags that other groups arriving after us would be handed. We all look forward to meeting up with the remainder of Bus Group 9 at Aussie Central in the morning, and a good night sleep, fresh for what tomorrow holds.

Meanwhile the other half of our group, which remained in Santiago, cleaned their rooms and thanked the Sisters and others who had accomodated us so graciously for the past three days allowing our stay to be more comfortable.  We made our way to the bus with our enthusiastic tour guide Judith and began a scenic road-trip that took us out of the built up areas of Santiago and into the mountainous and beautiful rural Chile. It was cold and snow had fallen last night. The road weaved through valleys and hills, and we eventually arrived at a shrine named after one of Chile's two saints, St Teresa of the Andes. The Sanctuary of Teresa of the Andes is in the small town of Rinconada in the Los Andes Province. As we arrived, we recognised the significance of the shrine to the people. People were flocking into the church, eager to make their prayer to the statue of the saint, to whom they felt so connected. The church also had a museum, with some intensely realistic portrayals of Jesus on the cross and various other items that were significant in the life of the saint.

In 1919, at the age of 19, Teresa (Juana Enriqueta Josefina de los Sagrados Corazones Fernández y Solar) entered the novitiate of the Discalced Carmelite sisters in the township of Los Andes, at which time she was given the name Teresa of Jesus. Toward the end of her short life, Sister Teresa began an apostolate of letter-writing, sharing her thoughts on the spiritual life with many people. Teresa remains popular especially among women and young people and an estimated 100,000 pilgrims visit the shrine each year where her remains are venerated. She is Chile's first saint. Alberto Hurtado whose sanctuary we visited last Friday is the only other Saint from Chile.

After buying lunch, we spent time in the store, and then drove into the Andes Mountains. The route took us through scenes of majestic natural beauty, and all on the bus were awestruck by the incredible, snow covered mountains which shadowed over us as we moved along the winding road. Following some roadblocks, and several alpine villages, we arrived at the foot of a mountain, with a suitable location for the bus to park. For some members of our group, this was the first time they had encountered snow. The entire group shared a common enthusiasm for this moment. It would no doubt be remembered forever. Snowballs were thrown, photos were taken, songs were sung, and laughter was shared.  With cold bodies we returned to the warmth of the bus and travelled for hours back to the outskirts of Santiago. We found a market with cultural items, and took the opportunity to purchase souvenirs for our families. 

Eventually it was time to leave and we reluctantly collected our bags. We arrived at the airport, tired but so content with our stay in Chile.  While disappointed to leave, we were eager to embrace our next challenge, WYD in Brazil.  We had food at the airport and then sat down to wait for our 1.00am flight.  Unfortunately it was delayed and we did not leave until 2.30am.  Most slept on the plane.  We arrived in Rio and were taken by bus to Aussie Central where we met the rest of our group.  After a briefing we set up our beds and headed out for breakfast.

Day 5 – Monday 22 July 

Rio de Janiero - Sugarloaf and Corcovado by Harrison Duncan and James O'Sullivan-Avery

Last night was a hectic night of settling in some 1,000 people at Aussie Central. It is a beautiful spot in the customs hall of Pier Maua.  The 350 Sydney Catholic schools are in one section.  Groups arrived throughout the night.  As our first group were the first to arrive, we were quickly put to work in assisting in the establishment of stores and helping with the new arrivals throughout the night.  Our second group got in at about 9.00am. With joy at being reunited we set off for breakfast and all we could find was McDonalds. We encountered some new companions and they spoke of the wonders yet to come. Navigating the bustling crowds and humid climate, we began our trip to Corcovado and Sugarloaf. 

Our bus ride to Sugarloaf was led by our tour guide Luiz. We appreciated his enthusiasm and his interesting stories about Brazil. Most interesting were his stories about how the first favelas (shanty towns) were made and the history of the first favela, Provindincia.  Provindincia was born as a result of Princess Isabella freeing the slaves. This emancipation created problems as the slaves had no education and no jobs so they built small houses made of clay and wood along the mountain sides. Although a growing problem in Brazil it made for an amazing tour as the favelas littered the area around Rio.  

We were excited for our tour to Sugarloaf and Luiz came in handy, as he would throughout the day, assisting us in getting in front of the line for the cable cars. The cable cars were scenic and we stared in awe as we ascended to the peak of Sugarloaf. Pictures were taken with others. With the view of Rio's skyscrapers littering the landscape, the favelas moulded into the most inexcusable areas, and Christ the Redeemer in the distance, we fell silent in appreciation. It was evident that Rio really is a special place. 

We left Sugarloaf and made our way to a restaurant recommended by our guide. Several of us went with Mr El-Khoury to find some money for the week. Moving around the streets of Brazil, carefully dodging the traffic, we tried several ATMs in vain but finally found our way to a HSBC ATM which accepted our cards. On our return we were greeted by four large plates of meat with chorizo rice and salsa. We left nothing to waste as we watched Pope Francis trying to get through the crowd swarming all around his car. His security would have to earn their money just to get him to his residence. After finishing our massive meal we climbed aboard the bus for Corcovado and Christ the Redeemer.  

The top of Corcovado was in mist which made visibility difficult but the atmosphere was quite mystical.  One of the most significant landmarks in Rio, and the most famous statue of Jesus, is the Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer) towering above the Corcovado Mountain that overlooks Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It is a huge statue! It may have seemed just colossal stone, but in the mist it was profound in its beauty. The idea for the giant statue was suggested in the 1850s but it was not until the 1920s that building commenced. It was completed in 1931. In 2010 the statue was damaged by lightning which led to the need for restoration work. The statue stands at 30.1 metres high. 

While most of the places we went to today were tourist sites and activities arranged by Harvest with other Australians, today was a chance to see what World Youth Day would be like and to get a taste of how many people were journeying with us. It was amazing to see that this many people could be united for a single cause and one faith. The Sydney Catholic Schools contingent was astounded at the sight of so many people from all over the world, waving enormous flags, singing and celebrating their culture and spirituality openly. We began to interact with other pilgrims, trading flags and other souvenirs unique to their countries or taking photos with other large groups of pilgrims. It is clear that many have affection for Australia and its people.  Our task was to reciprocate by showing an interest in each of the many nationalities we met today. It gave us an insight into how much fun faith can be and how it can unite so many people in happiness and love for the church. 

Overall the day has been really good; we believe we experienced God's presence in the sights and experiences in Rio de Janeiro.  After we got back to our simple accommodation at Aussie Central, we spent some time journaling and thinking about the day.  Tomorrow is officially the first day of World Youth Day week and as a new part of our journey begins, we feel a nervous anticipation for the enlightening experience ahead of us.

Day 6 – Tuesday 23 July

Opening Mass - Connor Scicluna and John Lewis

We slept in to a degree – in as much as you can in a room of 150 boys sleeping in an open area on mattresses. Our initial feelings of uncomfortableness have dissipated, and we have embraced these unconventional dwellings. We are enjoying sleeping with hundreds of others, and building bonds which would not have been possible otherwise. The students were excited by yesterday’s Papal arrival. The vision of pilgrims swarming as the papal car approached was an interesting sight. Mr El-Khoury and Anthony, a staff member from the CEO went to collect breakfast from the distribution point but they would not give them the meals without our tickets. It meant some food was uncollected – we can only hope it was not wasted. The group ended up eating at McDonalds – not typically cultured cuisine, but for adolescent boys equally as satisfying. We have all vowed to try more typically Brazilian food before we leave. 

Fr Peter went ahead to the Cathedral to get his credentials as a priest in Brazil.  Despite completing everything in advance online he still had to queue for several hours. He said it was even more disorganized for the priests in Sydney for WYD08. As we headed to the Cathedral, we experienced our first full taste of the magnitude of World Youth Day. During our 20 minute walk to the Cathedral, we were warmly greeted by people from all nations and cultures, who were eager to take photos with the group and exchange items. People in cars beeped as they passed us. As we passed pilgrims we swapped souvenirs and chants.  Fr Peter and Mr El-Khoury assured us that these positive interactions between young people across nations would only increase. Upon arrival at the Cathedral, we were amazed by the unconventional yet amazing architecture.  It was a magnificent modern building.  Shaped like a spherical dome with splendid stained glass. There was a massive crucifix hanging from the roof, in the middle of the Cathedral. It was the focal point of the church.  The church was loud chatter as people poured in to admire its beauty, and to get into the World Youth Day spirit.  Our bus has developed an ease in relating to each other - the 15 Aloysius’ boys and the 15 girls and 2 boys from other schools.  

We then caught the metro train to Copacabana.  It was incredibly crowded.  When we alighted it was raining, so we walked quickly to the beach and sheltered nearby.  Mr El-Khoury and Mrs Jenny Foldes went to buy umbrellas and plastic ponchos while Fr Peter with two of the Aloysius’ boys scoped a good position for us.  We then went off in our groups to buy a late lunch or early dinner.  Kamil’s group found our way back to the restaurant we visited yesterday with Luiz, just behind the altar.  The staff recognized us and were so helpful in serving us again. It was yet again more evidence of the hospitality present at World Youth Day.

We then went to the beach and found a spot beneath one of the big screens.  We had some time before mass so we explored the beach. Some went for a walk to get closer to the altar, whilst others continued trading souvenirs and conversations with others.  The crowd was much more densely packed the closer one got to the altar. There was great music and people were dancing and enjoying themselves. As we walked, people would scream at us Australia, and we would reply with a friendly response. After two hours of enjoying ourselves, swapping souvenirs and celebrating with people from all over the world, we went back to our position to wait for the Opening mass. 

This was a truly profound experience. The mass was in Portuguese, and considering many of us had forgotten to bring our mini-radios which would offer a translation, we did not understand the language but we knew the liturgy. The lack of language did not detract from the experience. The passion and love present in the mass was clearly evident, and the whole group found themselves breaking out in song - immersing in the enthusiasm that was being displayed by people from all over the world. The queue for communion was a notable moment, as hundreds of Australians near us scrambled across the sand for the Eucharistic host. After communion, we left the beach, buzzing, after an amazing mass. In fact, we left quickly in order to attempt to miss the masses of people that were set to flood the streets surrounding the beach. 

The train trip home was jam-packed. We had to grab onto each other’s back packs as we walked in order to not become separated from the group. Although the station and trains were crowded and somewhat claustrophobic, the atmosphere was absolutely amazing. It made being surrounded by so many people, unable to move, bearable and even exciting. There were thousands of people from all nations screaming and shouting their native songs. We screamed Aussie Aussie Aussie Oi Oi Oi several times, and were always met with cheers from other nations. They even participated too.  We know it will be even busier for the Papal mass on Thursday and the Stations of the Cross on Friday.  It is estimated that there will be over two million people at the final vigil and mass.

Overall the first official day of the World Youth Day week was remarkable. It was an invigorating experience for all to be in the presence of God on such a scenic place as Copacabana Beach. Being surrounded by people young and old, from all around the world, celebrating, only enhanced the experience. It showed us all how immense the Lord’s presence is. Most of all, it got us excited for a packed week ahead.

A major component of World Youth Day is the social aspect. Over the past few days, the students from Bus 9 have not only come closer, forming many special individual relationships with each other , but have met other people from Australia and abroad. This is only set to grow as we experience more of the glory of World Youth Day. We are not even we even half way through our journey. 

Day 7 – Wednesday 24 July

Catechesis, Australian WYD Gathering - Liam MacWhite and Daniel Wade

Despite a late night at Copacabana beach we arose at the crack of dawn, much as to our surprise, but we had an eventful day to come. Our day started at the Lady of the Candelabra church, one of the most beautiful churches in all of Rio de Janeiro. We had our breakfast and then our first catechesis. The large majority of people at the catechesis were Australian but there were others from the United States, Kuwait, Hungary and Ireland. It started with a performance by a religious artist from California called Jesse. He was very inclusive, funny and proud of our Catholic faith. He was a large man and described himself in these terms: I am not out of shape, I am a perfect circle. At one point he allowed a few people to join him on the altar which some of the students in our bus group did. 

We were then asked to find a group of five or six people who we did not know and, firstly learn about them, where they were from and who they are. Then were given the task of answering three questions: What is your favourite prayer? What is faith for you? How has your Catholic faith influenced your life? This evoked a wide range of answers - Jesse encouraged us to share some of our answers to the crowd. We heard the perspectives of other people around us - their personal experience of their life with the church was so interesting. After this interaction, we were fortunate to hear Bishop Laurence from Bangladesh give an inspiring speech about Christianity in his home country and the help that is so needed but not given.

We went off for lunch in a local area and after half an hour of free time, our group gathered outside a small church where we met a rather large group of Brazilians from the north of the country who had just arrived that morning. It was fun getting to know them and they were so excited to trade stuff with us. 

Bus 9 then ventured into the massive Australian gathering for those taking part in World Youth Day. It was in a theatre and hosted by two young Australians, Tom and Melissa. They were exceedingly enthusiastic and cringingly Aussie, ensuring an embarrassed laugh from those assembled. Several bands performed songs of praise in a rock and roll genre. There was a slideshow of Australians completing their mission work in different parts of South America, including building stairs in Peru and houses in Chile. There were some speeches from Bishops and others. Anthony Fisher was ecstatic about the number of Australians that had travelled to World Youth Day and the love that we brought with us. Bishop Prowse from Gippsland spoke about the World Youth Day theme - go and make disciples of all nations. He emphasised the point all nations – which made some of us think about asylum seekers back home. He also spoke of the connection between Come and see’ and ‘Go and tell. Cardinal Pell from Sydney encouraged us to seize the moment. Then we left our Australian comrades and walked into a wall of Americans who were about to have their USA gathering.  Fr Jack McLain who was with the Magis group (young adults from Jesuit ministries around the world) caught up with the Aloysius group.  It was good to see him again as he had taught some of us three years ago.

Walking through a downfall of torrential rain, on streets full of crowds of pilgrims, we found our way to St Rita’s church and a Mass for the Australian school students. The church had some amazing artwork and statues. There were no spare seats. After the Eucharist we headed back to the Port and Aussie Central. The Aloysian students took up our pilgrim journals and headed into the meeting room with Mr El-Khoury and Fr Peter.  We journalled in silence for about 45 minutes and then shared together our reflections about our time in Rio so far. Many spoke simple words of wisdom and the strengthening of our bonds and understanding. 

Today was a day full of unexpected fun and bonding with Australians and more importantly with people of all nationalities. It was a long, exciting and eventful day today, and one which we will remember for a very long time. As we begin this week of celebrations for World Youth Day, we remember the words of Pope Benedict XVI: It is an encounter with the Son of God that gives us new energy to the whole of our existence, because when we enter into a personal relationship with him, Christ reveals our true identity and in friendship with him, our life grows towards complete fulfilment. 

Day 8 – Thursday 25 July

Arrival of Pope Francis - Conor Roberts and Lachlan Brimson

The group started the day with an early rise filled with tired enthusiasm. We headed towards Catechesis in Samba City a half an hour walk from Pier Maua, wet and hungry but were pleased to be met by a hall full of aussie youth enjoying breakfast. After breakfast the masses of aussie youth headed out to Catechesis curious, eager and lively. 

We joined in on some welcoming songs followed by an engaging speech by another young person and her discovery of her faith. Twenty minutes later the main event was then upon us as we listened to an inspiring speech by Cardinal Dolan of New York. The group and every Australian present was enlightened by his advice on new form of praying using the acroynm PRAY: Praise, Request, Apologise, Yes. This along with the seven stages of discipleship:1. Time, 2. Share meals 3. Get to know them better 4. Change bad things 5. Sorry 6. Company with disciples and finally, 7.Carry your cross enlightened the pilgrims with a new perspective on prayer. As the catechesis was over, we waited patiently for the celebration of the Eucharist to start. We were united by our faith and joined in the singing of the hyms as we all prayed together.

The Mass led by Cardinal Dolan came to an end we walked through a favela witnessing the poverty stricken parts of Rio. We  then headed off to lunch before venturing out to Copacabana Beach for the welcoming of the Pope Francis. Our group stood amongst the masses of eager pilgrims on the streets before the beach waiting for the Pope to pass. The atmosphere was filled with excitement and anticipation. Energies were running high, people were getting on each others shoulders in the hope of catching a glimpse and hopefully a photo of the pope

As Pope Francisco passed by in his Pope mobile, our area was filled with an unrivaled volume of screams and claps, the flash of cameras and great excitement. Hundreds of thousands of people flooded onto the beach ecstatic at having seen Pope Francisco but also eager to find a spot to listen to him speak. Our group piled onto the beach quickly, to find a spot to settle down, still overwhelmed with the sighting of our Pope. The crowds were unbelievably loud chanting, singing and talking with fellow pilgrims. The group  talked amongst each other, waiting for the start of the opening ceremony when suddenly the rain began to pour down upon us.  It did not deter our determination to enjoy this event with our Pope. 

The Pope's speech began and although we were unable to understand his words we were still connected by being in his presence. Father Hosking was thankfully able to interpret some of the pope's words for some of us as he had a transmitter radio to translate for him. He spoke of money, power and riches being close to irrelevant to happiness, that money, power and other worldy objects dont last, they only provide temporary enjoyment. Following this he made a truly touching statement, that for true happiness to last, faith is required, faith in god and in your fellow neighbour. Pope Fransceco's words were perfectly simple yet at the same time spoke universaly to all of us there.

The group tried to make a quick departure before the masses of people. However we were delayed five minutes by some of our fellow pilgrims needing to use the bathroom, and within this period chaos was already evident. Thousands of people piled off the beach in an attempt to also beat the crowds. We kept moving and dropped by a Copacobana supermarket to buy some snacks and a little bit of dinner. we were met with all kinds of delicacies: beautiful breads, hams and cheeses but without realizing 30 minutes had passed and literally a million people had left the beach entering the streets,  and we were met with challening crowds. Our group made our way to the train station only to realize that tens of thousands were going to the same station. The lines were daunting, twirling around blocks of buildings and intertwined through all of the streets, so the decision was made to walk until we found an easier route back. Not long after and still filled with excitement about what had happened that night, we stumbled upon a bus stop flowing with buses heading all over the city. Very quickly we found our way to a bus heading to Central station which was an easy 10 minute walk from Aussie central. Ariving back after a long and interesting night we all settled in to rest and reflect, andd prepare for another full day.

Day 9 – Friday 26 July

Stations of the Cross - Nicholas Paton and Thomas Lewis

On Friday we set off again to Catechesis - bright and early as usual. We began with music. Edwin Galea from the Jesuit parish at North Sydney played guitar. Then a speaker Andrew shared his faith story. He spoke about how as a teen he smoked, drank, had no faith in God, received poor marks in school and had a bad attitude. When he was 18 he took a Gap Year and decided relunctantly to take part in an adult scripture group. He found his faith and friends there. In his talk a line that really struck a chord was that: God chooses us not because of the things we can do but because of the things we can't do. He expressed how faith has given him the light of God and changed his life. 
The second speaker was Brisbane Archbishop Mark Colleridge. He spoke of a need for a new type of Christian - one like St Benedict who changed the church in his time -  and about Pope Francis and the the Jesuits. He spoke of a need for renewal in the church. He felt that we needed a new surge of Gospel energy and new structures and strategies. He said the church needs to be more missionary and needs to climb into the "Digital Continent" with and alongside the young people. He said truth that is love, is a love that is for everybody. This was again a wonderful catechesis.

We then headed to Copacabana Beach in an effort to get good seats to watch the Stations of the Cross. The route we took to get to the beach took us through new areas of Rio we peviously had not seen -  new extraordinry angles to veiw the favelas - putting into perspective the fortunate lives which we had all left behind in Sydney. After the walk and a bus ride we arived at the beach. Fortunately the weather had cleared up. The beach was full of both locals and pilgrims all enjoying themselves. There were a number of games being played, including the locals showcasing there skills at kick vollyball where anything other then hands can be used. Fr Peter then helped us prepare for the arrival of Pope Francis. People crowded the streets and shouts of Viva Papa could be heard all around. The Papal arrival was heralded by the blockade of navel ships off shore and some army helicopes overhead - one of which delivered the smiling Papa Francisco to the Pope mobile where he began his approach to the main stage. The Popemobile continiouslly stopped  to allow the Pope to greet the crowds, bless the many children that were presented to him and to recive gifts. We caught a glimpse of the pope when he drove past our locaion - some people jumping or perched on others shoulders to catch sight of Francis. 

Once the Pope arrived at the main stage he was greeted by members of eclesial rank and the happy Francis settled into his seat on the main stage. He then gave an opening address to begin the Stations of the Cross. Each station, placed along the road, represented an idea  appropriate to a modern context, such as an unatural death, the relationship of mother and child and the culture of death, which is becoming an issue in modern life where the value of life has become less valued. Each station was presented through actions, spoken scripure and message, as well as images. To represent Jesus and the cross a large wooden cross was carried by scouts, flanked by soliders, and flags of all the nations of the world. This represented the universal church. After the Stations of the Cross we moved from the beach to the metro line, where we battled the crowds to get on a bus back to 'Aussie Central'.  After getting food from a local fast food outlet we returned to sleep in preperation for the Prayer Vigil and sleepout on Saturday night. 

Day 10 – Saturday 27 July

Walk and Vigil - Liam Crisanti and Konrad Stilin

Today began just before seven o'clock, when we woke to prepare our bags for the journey ahead. Although we were all tired, we knew that what was to come was the most important part of the trip, and this urged us on. After packing our World Youth Day bags to the brim, we gathered in Aussie Central's common room for the morning mass. A torrential downfall was a worrying sign for our camping on the beach. Our Eucharist began just after eight o'clock, and was celebrated by the youngest ordained priest in Australia, Father Damien McAan. His words about the upcoming Mass, and making 'disciples of all nations' were appreciated by all.  Our pilgrims's breakfast packs awaited us, and we eat knowing that we would not eat for some time. We were pleasantly suprised by a sudden outburst of sun after breakfast. We had been expecting more rain as we had experinced most of the past week. Some thought this was a sign to mark the glorious day that lay ahead.

We then began the pilgrim walk which was a nine kilometre journey to Copacabana beach. At first, we thought that we may be able to get our pilgrim meal packs (our food for the next two days) easily, but we soon gave up the idea when we saw hundreds of thousands of people who were also lining up for them. We decided to buy our meals at a local supermarket, that supplied bread, cheese and ham or prosciutto. Along the nine kilometre walk we felt a real sense of unity with others - wherever they came from. We said ola or bon dia in Portugese. We realized that we had learnt little of the local language during the week as a result of being among Australians most of the time. But our interactions with the local Brazilians was always good and full of fun. Our brief connections put a smile on the face of others who walked by, and they in turn put a smile on our faces.

We arrived at Copacabana beach at 11:30, tired but happy. It was already packed, and we had to walk a further two kilometres up the beach before we could find a spot. We were the first group to arrive and we reserved spots for the others from the Sydney Catholic schools by placing tarpaulins and our bags all over the beach around us. Bus 9 managed to reserve a large footprint for the others. We watched the entertainment from a screen in front of us that began soon after we arrived. When we sat down, we knew that we could rest, and so we did, as well as talk to those from other nations and admire the beauty of the huge beach from our position.

Our time on Copacabana beach included dancing to various artists, and even attempting a city wide flash mob a one point, which was fun. Other interactions with the global Catholic communitty included strolling the beach  and trading small items such as kangaroos and koalas for things such as badges or flags. Some students even managed to trade their t shirts with people from Zimbabwe. We also signed flags or shirts, and reciprocating gathered many dialects and languages all over the world on our shirts. It was an experince that really cemented the concept of what World Youth Day was all about. We understood more about the centrality of love and acceptence that everyone has for everyone else, as well as the generousity and compassion of all young people from all countries. There was a sense of the strong feeling of faith that everyone held deep within their hearts. After all the trading and conversing the whole group returned decked out in items from countries all over the globe.

Pope Francis then arrived again in his classic windowless car, with multitudes of fans clambering as close as possible to the most holy man in the whole of the Catholic Church. Once he arrived the Pope led us in an Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, which felt something like a Mass but the atmosphere was a lot more serene and quiet. Stories of the local populace were told to the masses, most of which were very moving and quite emotional to most people. Their stories talked of the detriments of drugs to their lives and the problems they faced with family and friends. After that the whole crowd was asked to kneel for the Eucharistic Adoration. The Pope spoke in Portugese as he processed with the Blessed Sacrament in a monstrance. The monstrance was a large golden cross, with rays coming out of it, in which was placed the Blessed Sacrament within a glass case in the middle of the cross. However the Mass wasn’t without incident as many foreign groups tried to invade the Australian sleeping space, forcing some of the boys to create a wall and effectively becoming bouncers for our area.

After the adoration was over and the people had wiped their tears away, the crowds rose to celebrate the Word of the Lord, singing and dancing within the streets. The whole group was enriched by the power of the Spirit celebrating with the surrounding groups. This lasted for a long time before everyone, so tired from the past weeks activities, crawled into sleeping bags on the tarpaulins, staring at the stars as they fell asleep soothed by the vibrant feel of Copacabana.

Day 11 – Sunday 28 July

WYD Final Mass with Pope Francis - Austen Hunt and Joshua Maas

After going to sleep early in the morning, we woke only a few hous later to a cheer for the rising sun breaking the horizon over Copacabana beach. The restless sleep on the cold sand meant that many of us were tired, but all of us were  eager for the penultimate mass of World Youth Day with Pope Francis. As the day got lighter, it got warmer and the crowds increased in size. With the arrival of the Holy Father late in the morning, the excitement of the crowd increaed tenfold, with a reported 3.5 million people present.

The World Youth Day Mass for Rio de Janeiro 2013 started, and everyone was either following with radio translations, liturgy books, or just soaking in the atmosphere. It was surreal to see millions of people joining together in unison for the single purpose of celebrating mass with Pope Francis on the dunes of Copacabana beach. The number of people from different countries, with different ethnicities and speaking different languages all interacting, united under the banner of Jesus Christ was almost unfathomable. The Mass was based around the theme of World Youth Day in Rio "Make Disciples of all Nations", and both the gospel readings and the homily reflected this. While many of the songs and speeches were read in different languages and made little sense to us, we all understood the spiritual and liturgical meanings to them. The people in this mass came together in celebrating not only the mass itself but also celebrating the fact that every person there, all 3.5 million of them, just spent the night sleeping in uncomfortable, cold conditions in nothing but the best of spirits, in the name of our shared faith. This gave all the boys a shared feeling of mutual love and respect for their surroundings and people, regardless of the language barrier. Although the mass was hard the people pushed through it, knowing this would be the last mass for world youth day, savouring the experience.

The fact that Pope Francis did not speak in a language we understood meant nothing as even those without the radio translation were transfixed by the manner in which he held himself; he did not think that he was superior in any way, but one of us, another follower of God. The Mass ended almost too quickly, and with the announcement of World Youth Day 2016 being in Poland and a final blessing, it was over. Our journey over the past week and a half, through several countries, was complete, save for our reflection period in Iguazu Falls over the next few days.

While Bus Group 9 sat on the sands of Copacabana Beach, forming a circle to defend our stuff from the millions of people wandering through, we realised that we had started the home stretch, that in less than a week we would all be back home in Sydney. We would have to leave the huge crowds, the unique and sometimes overwhelming atmosphere and the friendly people all behind, save for our memories and the pages of our journal.  

After waiting for the crowds to thin before departing, we walked a couple of kilometres to a bus station, where the group split between those walking and those catching the bus back to Aussie Central. The group that walked was treated to sunshine and a beautiful vista of Rio's mountains and attractions, as well as a constant game of rugby that seemed to interrupt the general peace of the desolate walk back. This proved to be nothing less than beautiful as the boys and girls who went enjoyed walk and engaged in friendly banter and amazing views including Sugarloaf Mountain and Christ the Redeemer. While the group that caught the bus got back to Aussie Central faster, they missed out on a beautiful dinner, which they caught up on a couple of hours later.

Everyone was tired due to the lack of sleep and the long walk there, and for some, back again but overall emotions were high due to the phenomenal experience of the mass and sleep out and being a part of such a significant, unique and amazing experience of not just the mass before but the entire week itself. All of us were asleep early after a quick shower and a group journaling session.

Day 12 – Monday 29 July

Final Day in Rio de Janeiro - Liam Shiel-Dick and Harrison Duncan

After the inspirational events experienced by our group over the last 24 hours, we rose from a well earned sleep to the sound of a high pitched horn - perhaps a fitting way to end our week at Aussie Central. The experience has been one of constant energy, entertainment and enlightenment.

A deep contentment was felt throughout the group as we gathered and made our way to breakfast. We then journeyed through the streets to a local market and shopping district, where the hive of activity and upbeat atmosphere epitomised our view of Rio as a bustling city that was constantly alive.

The group divided into smaller groups and we explored the local area. It was an opportunity to roam, absorb the atmosphere and see for ourselves a little more of the local environment and culturue of Rio - which was much appreciated by all members of the group.

After lunch, and the purchase of various souvenirs, we walked back to Aussie Central, to undertake the tasks of packing and cleaning up. With high degree of team work it did not take too long. The group regathered in the common area, and divided into our reflection groups with our dedicated group leaders. Within our groups, we discussed what we had taken from our Rio experience. We reflected on what had happened and how this compared with our initial expectations of WYD.

This opportunity for reflection proved powerful. Fr Peter reminded us of how experience, emotions and memories need to be integrated. This was a chance to recollect not just the distinct, major events of the week, but the smaller, valuable interactions and emotions which truly enhanced the whole experience. We also discussed our expectations of Igauzu and began to prepare for the days yet to come. We had a lovely simple Eucharist with our group and Bishop Brady on the pavillion floor. The reflection time was followed by a a brief history of the Iguazu region by Fr Peter. He spoke of the native peoples of the region, the Guarani, and the role of the Jesuits in the area between 1606 and 1770s. For many of us this helped make the connection between Iguazu and the experiences of the previous week.

This was a relaxing time to end an intense week; a week which for many of us challenged our previous perceptions of our beliefs but also our attitudes about the Catholic church and community as a whole. Listening to the group reflections, and discussions between friends, it became apparent that although the days spent in Rio may not have had the impact we expected they did indeed have a significant effect on us all. Whether these days brought us closer to the Catholic church time will tell, but they did deepen our spirituality and led us to look further into our faith and beliefs.

Not long after, the peace and reverance was broken by a flurry of activity as our group leaders hurried us onto the bus to get to the airport. After visiting the limted duty free stores and chatting with each other - even Cardinal Pell - we boarded our flight, which was full of other Sydney Catholic School pilgrims, for the final leg of our journey. We landed at Puerto Iguazu and caught a bus to our hostel. We arrived at1.00 am. We were tired but content. We were happy to settle into sleep, and take advantage of better bedding and a shower.

Day 13 – Tuesday 30 July

Iguazu Falls - Connor Scicluna and James O’Sullivan-Avery 

After our late arrival at the Hostel Inn, we had several hours of good sleep which were abbrevaited by a 7.00 am wake up call to ready us for our visit to the famous Iguazu Falls. Preparinged for the magnificent day ahead Bus 9 ate breakfast at the Hostel which was a nice change from Aussie Central. Our plan was to visit the Iguazu Falls on both the Argentinian and Brazilian sides. Our bus group enjoyed being together again and we settled into a companionable presence with each other. It was reminiscent of the time we had spent together in Chile, before WYD week, but now we had come to know each other better. It was easy being together again and sharing converstaion. 

We arrived at the Brazilian side of the Falls and were struck by the thick tropical vegetation. Our group was struck by the difference between the Amazonian jungle and our Australian bush. After getting off the bus we were greeted by the falls - hailed as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. We were confronted by something none of us had ever seen before, as we sought to take in the sheer magnitude of the water. It was breathtaking to watch the massive waterfalls all around and the rainbows formed by the spray. We realised that we were witnessing the power and majesty of nature. It was something that was hard to comprehend. This is one memory that will stay with us for a long time in our hearts - even without pictures. As we walked down through the rain forests we saw several raccoon-like creatures that had been partly domesticated from tourists feeding them. Being surrounded by the wildlife and thick jungle created an intimate moment amongst the group amidst the thundrous sound of the falls.

When we got to the widest part of the falls some of us decided to buy ponchos to protect us from the huge amounts of spray. Others enjoyed getting drenched as they stood above the cliff. This gave many of us time to think about how God works through nature, the wonders that he has created and how all of us ended up together at Iguazu falls at this time in our lives. The journey from Chile to Iguazu had already been spectacular and meaningful. We were amazed and found new meaning in this rich experince of God's majesty in nature.

We got back on the bus with our informative tour gide, Miguel, who was a very good shepherd, gathering us up from the tracks, and everywhere else, so that we didin't miss our bus. We started our journey to the Argentinian side of the beautiful Iguazu Falls. We enjoyed the scenic views everywhere. There were also many friendly and familiar faces as a few of the Sydney catholic School groups joined us. The first train ended up being full so we had to walk to another train. Taking the scenic route nobody seemed to mind - the weather was perfect. The forest was vast and luscious. This national park was largely unaffected by human touch. We pondered the natural beauty and enjoyed each others' company - the relationships formed throughout the journey. We walked across the walkways over streams and rivers, through the jungle and over waterfalls taking in its serenity and peacefulness. 

We came to the top of the waterfall, witnessing its raw power and intensity.The view was stunning. The warterfall stretched 100's of metres across two different countries. We were unable to see the bottom due to the water crashing down and spraying water everywhere. We were constantly sprayed by a refreshing mist which was cooling on the hot day. We all took pictures and bonded even further while taking in its beauty, all the while having a great time. The walk back was very relaxing and calming - a perfect time to reflect on the incredible journey that we have had so far. For all of us it was a very spiritual and enriching pilgrimage, seeing God through the beauty of nature and his creation, which is quite amazing. 

After we returned to the Hostel Inn we had dinner and broke into our smaller groups to discuss our feelings about the day and the journey as a whole.We also had a small liturgy reflecting on the pilgrimage - lighting candles and praying  - and had a chance to have some of the items we bought throughout the trip blessed by Fr Peter and Bishop Terry  - which was quite beautiful. The coming days seem blessed also since we all had such a nice time today. Even though the thought of going home and being able to appreciate all the luxuries, especially seeing our family and friends again, is exciting we will truly never forget this amazing experience and will miss many of the great friendships we have formed with both the Aloysian students and those from the other schools journeying with us on Bus 9, and with the wider Sydney CEO group.

Day 14 – Wednesday 31 July

Iguazu Falls - Day Two - John Lewis and Liam MacWhite

Our last day at Iguazu was to be one of reflection, to allow us to discern some of the lessons from our pilgrimage. The theme of the day was We are Challenged which complimented our overall theme of making disciples of all nations. The day began with a late wake up for most, with breakfast scheduled between 8.00 and 9.00am. This allowed for some much needed rest before our flights, in the coming days, back to Sydney.

After breakfast our Bus 9 group moved into our smaller group, led by our Pilgrim Group Leaders, to ensure that the meaning behind our experiences was not overlooked. The group led by Kamil Mrówka discussed some open ended questions, mainly in relation to one’s faith and relationships, as well as how this pilgrimage has affected us. Mr El-Khoury´s group reflected on their time, and the beauty, of God’s creation at Iguazu Falls, and concluded the session with some journaling. Mr Pocock and Ms Christofordis´ groups combined in order to discuss scripture, and how it was relatable to one’s own life. The parable they discussed was called A Glass of Milk which was about a doctor who anonymously returned an act of kindness to a woman who had helped him earlier in his life when he was poor.

After an hour and a half of sharing in our small groups, the Bus 9 group joined together to discuss what we had spoken about in our small groups. After this sharing Father Hosking asked the group open ended questions so that people could share what the pilgrimage meant to them. Questions included What was a surprising discovery on the pilgrimage? What did you find hard on the pilgrimage? What have you have learnt on the pilgrimage that you wish to bring home? This served as a most helpful way to tie many things together for us, and was a welcome change from the busy and somewhat frantic nature of our time spent in Brazil.

The group then ventured from our Hostel Inn to a buffet style restaurant, with the other CEO school groups, who were staying up the road. We enjoyed Spaghetti Bolognaise. In the free time after lunch the majority of the group caught up on journaling, relaxed by the pool or played ping pong. A common feeling, felt by many during this time, was sadness that our pilgrimage was nearing the end. We have become an incredibly tight knit group and will miss each other very much.

Following this, the entire group sat down and were given the challenging task of writing a letter to ourselves. We were given a framework to work with. These included questions: The most important piece of wisdom I received on WYD was...; Currently, my goals are… etc. Because today is the Feast of Saint Ignatius we also were asked to consider: What have I done for Christ? What am I doing for Christ? What will I do for Christ? The letters are to be mailed to us in a year, to remind us of our WYD pilgrimage and our understandings and emotions. We were given half an hour to begin writing the letters, which we shall finish before we fly out of Buenos Aires tomorrow. This was an incredibly rewarding exercise for all, and will serve to remind us of this enriching experience - so it is not just a distant memory in the future.

The entire group then took private coaches to the Cathedral in Iguazu Falls to celebrate the Eucharist with all the other Sydney Catholic School Groups. There was a brief thank you to chief organiser David Cloran, to whom Bus 9 are so deeply grateful. 400 youth from the Sydney Catholic Schools then gathered in the beautiful church for the Eucharist. Cardinal George Pell, together with other priests celebrated Mass. Two Aloysius’ students - James O´Sullivan Avery and Lachlan Brimson – were altar servers. As Bus 9 heads back to Sydney, while the other buses continue their journey in Buenos Aires, this was our last opportunity to come together as a group to celebrate the Eucharist. It was a blessed occasion. As today is the feast day for St Ignatius, the founder of the Jesuits, Cardinal Pell´s homily was centred on the life of Ignatius. He spoke at length on the way Ignatius began his life in a way that was not conducive to sainthood. His message was that anybody can attain greatness, no matter what shortcomings they have in their life. His account of the life and story of Ignatius was fairly close to what we have been taught from our earliest days at St Aloysius’. He was very generous in his praise of the work of the Society of Jesus and it was encouraging to hear the Cardinal speak so highly of the Jesuits, even encouraging some of the young people to consider a vocation to join.

We arrived back to our Youth Hostel and packed up our belongings and cleaned our rooms. Today is the birthday of Kalani, a girl from Burraneer College. After dinner the group sang her happy birthday and enjoyed some Argentinian Chocolate Cake. Some brief thank yous were then said by Mrs Foldes. We were filled with sadness as we realised our time together was nearly over. We are all sad to be leaving, but incredibly grateful for the opportunity we have been given. The day ended with some free time, which was split between fun banter, ping pong and bag packing. The Iguazu Falls feature of the pilgrimage has enhanced the power of the experience of the World Youth Day journey. It has inspired the majority of the group to consider different views on how they will lead their lives in the future. Ultimately this World Youth Day has touched everyone in so many areas of their lives. It will stay in our hearts and minds forever.

Day 15 – Thursday 1 August

Homeward Bound - Daniel Wade and Conor Roberts

The group had an early wake-up call at 6.00 am to prepare for our departure to Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina. From there we flew to Santiago, Chile to connect to our flight home. As the group gathered at the exit of the Hostel Inn the atmosphere was similar to previous days - people talking and interacting as usual, however, today it seemed different. The memories of the past two weeks of our trip were universally present amongst us all. The anxious energy to get back home to our loved ones was strong, but so was the saddening thought that we were leaving such a beautiful country and that we would not be a group for much longer. The group reminisced about the personal lessons that have been learned and the common lessons shared by the group yesterday - the power of friendship and happiness. The group over the short course of two weeks went from a group mixed with friends, strangers and acquaintances to a group in which we were all connected as friends - good friends. The group packed and collected their bags, loaded them on the bus and soon were on the way to the airport.

We got to Iguazu airport on time, thanks to our guide Miguel. It was warm when we took off for the 90 minute flight to Buenos Aires. It was 11 degrees when we arrived and were met by Kathy from the CEO and Sam from Harvest. They directed us from the domestic airport to a bus, to transfer us to the international airport one hour away. On the bus trip to the international terminal we passed through part of the city centre of Buenos Aires. Our tour guide, who we only had for a short amount of time, pointed out to us an enormous body of water to the left, which we were all convinced was the ocean - but it wasn't. Rather, it was a river, which was 40km wide as we saw it, acting as a natural border between Argentina and Uruguay. At its widest it was 220km. It was a beautiful city overall, with lots of grand buildings, including the renowned opera house originally built in 1908, but like most other large South American cities it also had a large number of shanty towns and slums. The contrast between the rich and poor, living within such close proximity to each other, was a constant shock, always challenging us to question the value we placed on our current possessions. Throughout the rest of the bus trip we saw more sights and engaged in conversation – bonding the group even closer together. When we arrived at Buenos Aires International Airport, we repeated our usual process once more - unloading, checking in and loading our suitcases. However, this time we would not see our luggage until we arrived home in Sydney. After a short wait the group boarded the plane and were given a simple, yet important task, to focus on during the two hour flight: Write a letter to yourself, to be opened in the future, about your journey. Although this task seemed simple, it was hard to put into words our experiences over the past two weeks - the journey as a whole and the most important aspects of the journey. However, each individual member of the group shall benefit greatly, from this exercise in the future, when they read over the memories stored within the letter and reminisce about the journey. We are now sitting in Santiago airport waiting to board a plane for Auckland, then Sydney and then finally home. While obviously happy to be coming back home there is also sadness at the thought that it may be a long time till we catch up with the amazing group of people we have spent the last two weeks with. In our hearts, though, we know that WYD will be one of the most important experiences of our lives and has been a great support to our faith formation.

One Week and beyond

Thomas Lewis and Lachlan Brimson

It has only been a few weeks since we returned from the amazing experience that was World Youth Day 2013 Rio. While the reality of it all is still sinking in, looking back over the trip, it seems so long ago.  We are over our jet lag and everyone is getting back into the mood of school - yet we often miss our time on World Youth Day. 

Arriving in South America, just over a month ago, was quite overwhelming. We were looking forward to the unknown, hoping that the group was about to undergo one of the most amazing journeys of their lives. The Chile trip was a wonderful experience. Thinking back over it, we realize the group, still not well accustomed to each other, was hesitant to make conversation. But as each morning and night went on, we gradually found each other, and formed little friendships along the way. The work at Maipo was one of the most memorable experiences. The community was so hospitable and open to our group, allowing us into their homes. We were introduced to their culture and traditions through dance and song.

Rio was such an amazing city. The tourist sights of Christ the Redeemer, Sugarloaf Mountain and Copacabana Beach were impressive. But more so was a growing awareness of the divide between the rich and the poor seen in the favelas and the wealthier parts of the city. The highlight for us in Rio was the sleep out and final mass on Copacabana Beach. This was a truly amazing experience - with a vibrant atmosphere created by the cheers and chants of people from almost every nation.

Rio allowed everyone to feel that we were truly part of the universal Church with over three million people from all over the world. The invitation from Pope Francis for us to become disciples of all nations reinforced the message of service, a theme of World Youth Day, and one we experienced in Maipo in Chile. The time we had in Rio had a profound impact on all involved - from simply listening to the Pope, to journaling and reflecting in our smaller groups led by Joe and Kamil. This enabled us to better understand our experiences throughout the trip.

We landed at Iguazu in the darkness of night, brimming with excitement to see the spectacular falls. The next day the group was mesmerised by the masses of water constantly flowing. The wind down whilst retreating at the hostel was also a great experience. It allowed us to reflect upon what had happened over the past weeks - thinking back on it, making notes and storing it forever in our memories.

World Youth Day 2013 Rio was such an amazing experience that many people are already considering WYD 2016 Poland, especially with the added prospect of seeing Kamil who by that time hopes to be a Deacon – the final stage before his ordination to the priesthood

On behalf of the St Aloysius’ students we are tremendously grateful for the contributions of Jenny, Mrs Chris, Mr Pocock, and Bishop Terry, and especially to Joe, Kamil and Fr Hosking. Without their care and encouragement our pilgrimage would not have been possible – it was a great occasion. Our pilgrimage across three nations with the other members of Bus 9 will be something which will never be forgotten. Many strong friendships have been formed. We so enjoyed meeting new people and getting to know our friends better.  Above all there were many special moments of faith with a deep appreciation for the spiritual growth that took place.

Here is a collection of pics from that cover just some of the adventures of the students and staff of Bus 9!


  1. Great story Torsa!! Glad to hear you all are happy and well. Looking forward to the next instalments. Much love to all.

  2. Enjoy your WYD journey Bus 9! A speacial shoutout to DLS Caringbah, Cronulla and OLMC Burraneer!

  3. Bus 9 - I am really enjoying reading your Blogs. What an amazing, cultural time you are all having. Keep them coming! Some photos would be great.

    Mumma C.

    Love you Maggie x

    Kate has gone into labour!!

  4. HI to all on Bus 9 - a special cheerio to OLMC Burraneer, DLS Caringbah, DLS Cronulla, students and staff. Seems like you are having a fantastic time. Enjoy & take care.

    Phil Gane

  5. Fantastic site developing Bus 9 - keep up the posts and know that back here in the Shire we are following your journey.

  6. Great adventures already Bus 9 !!
    Love seeing the photos and stories
    Keep warm x
    Bec Maas

  7. A shout out to St Aloysius College :)

  8. Great adventures already Bus 9 !!
    Love seeing the photos and stories
    Keep warm x
    Bec Maas

  9. Hi All, I'm loving reading your blog! It makes us all feel like we are there with you. Great to see you all meeting new friends! Keep safe and enjoy all the Big WYD day activities... Dont forget to write! Mrs O

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  11. Hi Bus 9! Am loving your blogs- it is most comforting to read that you are all getting on so well & are looking out for each other. What an amazing experience! Stay safe & enjoy your faith journey :) Lisa Gair

  12. Hi Everyone!
    Love hearing from you and about all your experiences! How blessed are we to have such wonderful opportunities! I'm so pleased for you and can't wait to hear more in person and see your photos! Have fun & and take care of each other, especially Mrs Chris. She is most likely missing her babies here at home! God bless you & keep you safe.
    Mrs Stevens :)

  13. Love the photos and updates - they really capture the spirit of the people and journey, the atmosphere around you - enjoy!!
    keep warm and dry
    Love x

  14. Bus 9 - I think you have the best group! You all look like you are having a wonderful time. Loved all the photos today!!!
    Take care and enjoy every moment!

    Mumma C.

    Maggie G. it is very quiet at home without you!

  15. The photos are fantastic!! What a great time you must be having! You will all remember this experience for the rest of your life. I hope you are deeply touched in some way by the experience and come home inspired and challenged to make a difference! Stay safe and enjoy every minute! Mrs O

  16. To our Year 11 students and Mr Pocock-enjoy!
    This is a once- in- a- lifetime experience- what an amzing time you are having!
    Josie Raftery

  17. With the limited phone coverage/ phone charge time,this blog has been a terrific way to follow Bus 9's adventures! Thanks for taking the time to post photos & stories-you are doing a fabulous job. Heartfelt thanks to the group leaders who are taking such wonderful care of our pilgrims.Enjoy your retreat time at the falls. Looking forward to seeing you on Saturday morning..it remains to be seen if Lucy & Kimberly make it to netball! I admire your enthusiasm girls! Xx for Lucy. Happy travels, Lisa Gair

  18. Brilliant Brilliant Blog Bus 9. So fantastic to be able to follow your journey.A big hug to all - especially Kimbles. Iguazu is magic - make the most of your retreat time and reflect on your wonderful experience with treasured memories.I too join Lisa with a huge thank you to Jenny and all the group leaders. Look forward to seeing you Sat and hearing all the stories. Mary GM

  19. I join with the thanks to the group leaders for taking on the responsibility and providing such a valuable faith building experience for our students. Thanks also to the pilgrims, each and every one adding to the community that became "Bus 9" I am confident that this experience has had a impact on each one and look forward to seeing what the future brings for each as a result of WYD 2013. SO excited about seeing you all next week and hearing all the stories !! Make sure you have a BIG rest when you can and dont pressure yourselves into catching up on everything (missed schoolwork, social lives etc) in one day!! Thanks again for the outstanding writing!! Mrs O