The first leg of the Journey of the World Youth Day Cross and Icon of Our Lady around Australia has been completed.
Organisers today thanked the team of five volunteers who visited 200 communities and directly engaged over 250,000 people since 1 July 2007.
Considered the "Olympic torch" of World Youth Day, the Journey is a World Youth Day tradition in which a team of young volunteers take the 3.8 metre Cross and 15 kilogram image of Our Lady (the Icon) to communities around the host nation.
The Australian Journey started with the arrival of the Cross and Icon from New Zealand on 1 July 2007, greeted by then Prime Minister John Howard and NSW Premier Morris Iemma.
The first leg of the Journey was undertaken by a team of five volunteers under the care of Fr Chris Ryan MGL and Pastoral Planner Alice Priest.
The first team comprised of:
- Matt Ross (21, Brisbane) – Photographer and Camera Operator
- Jeff Hoffard (24, Victoria) – Youth Ministry Volunteer
- Jessica Pollard (22, Canberra) – Youth Ministry Volunteer
- Jacinta (Jacs) Healy (23, Adelaide) – Youth Ministry Volunteer
- David Metz (53, Lismore) – Driver
"The dedication that this first team of volunteers put into this mission is nothing less than outstanding," said Bishop Anthony Fisher OP, Coordinator of World Youth Day 2008.
"They embarked on a physical, emotional and spiritual journey, taking the WYD message to many places that would not normally have had the chance to experience this great event or the work of the Australian Catholic community.
"World Youth Day 2008 and the communities they visited have been blessed by the efforts of these very special volunteers."
Travelling in a Mercedes Vito 115 CDI wagon with trailer, the team clocked up 31,000 kms in five months, and took the two holy symbols to some of Australia's most significant locations including:
The Great Barrier Reef
Mosques in western Sydney
on The Ghan to Uluru, Tennant Creek, Woomera and Coober Pedy
Through Sydney escorted by The God Squad motorcycle gang
And a Sunrise service on Byron Bay headland
The team also visited remote areas of the Aussie outback, remote Indigenous communities and places afflicted by pain, abuse or torture.
Every step of the way was captured on a dedicated JCI blog, found at http://www.wyd2008.org/
In each location, the Cross and Icon were warmly received and celebrated as symbols of peace, love and reconciliation.
The first team will return to their home towns and will be involved in the official "walk-in" of the Cross and Icon into Sydney when WYD begins on 15 July 2008.
The second JCI team will begin their Journey in January 2008.
Sydney will host the 23rd World Youth Day from 15-20 July next year with up to 125,000 international visitors expected to attend.
The event – hosted by the Catholic Church, but open to all – will mark the first visit to Australia by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI.
Only 214 days to go to WYD08!