Be Open to the Experience

My pilgrimage began three years ago in Toronto when everyone was going to Sydney. I was discerning a call to the priesthood at Serra House, and I was invited by the Director of the Office of Catholic Youth to volunteer at the regional WYD celebration at the Martyrs Shrine in Midland. They needed volunteers, and most of the usual suspects were headed to Sydney. I had never participated in any youth related Catholic event, and at the time, I had an extreme distaste for Praise and Worship music. If he hadn’t asked, I wouldn’t have been interested. He thought that it would be a worthwhile experience if I went, and his advice was simply: Be open to the experience.

Neiman (bottom right) driving pilgrims at Martyr's Shrine.

It rained most of the weekend, and because of the danger of lightning, every time it rained, we had to usher the pilgrims into the Church for shelter. Our schedule had to be adapted as we went along. During the first night, when the pilgrims gathered in the Church to avoid the storm, they started singing praise and worship songs to keep up the spirit of the weekend. I took notice online casino of the amount of joy they had, and how eager they were to express it. As Catholics, we have a lot to be happy about, and a lot of reasons to give thanks. We have a lot to celebrate and we need events like this remind us of them. By the end of the weekend, once I had opened myself to the experience, I had an amazing time.

People are surprised when I tell them that the regional event was my first WYD experience, and that I didn’t even attend WYD in Toronto. I ended up hosting the regional event the next year, and now I am blessed to be able to be one of the leaders for the pilgrimage going to Madrid. I am not sure exactly what to prepare for in Madrid, but the most important thing I can do is be open to the experience.


Neiman D’Souza is a Seminarian for the Archdiocese of Toronto. He is also an excited Pilgrim and Group Leader from Toronto for WYD 2011.

World Youth Day 2011 – The Trip of a Lifetime

My name is Gemma. I am currently in my second year of a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in History, at Australian Catholic University’s Melbourne Campus.

I am extremely excited at the prospect of attending my first World Youth Day in Madrid, Spain, as well as the pre-pilgrimage “In the Footsteps of John Paul II”.

Gemma with pilgrimage organiser, Thérèse Nichols

My decision to go to WYD Madrid came following my first pilgrimage to Rome in October 2010 for the Canonisation of Saint Mary MacKillop. It was during my stay in Rome that I came to appreciate, more, the gift of faith that I have been given and the unique and rich history of the Catholic Church. This inspired me to strive for a deeper understanding of my faith and I hope that my journey to Madrid will play an important part in achieving this goal.

To me World Youth Day Madrid will be, like those before it, a witness to the true Universality of the Catholic Church. It will prove to the world that the faith is alive and growing amongst the youth of the world. I recently attended a talk being given in Melbourne that discussed the “Catholic gift to Civilisation”. It explored the Church’s contributions to architecture, science, education and music, just a few which belong to a very long list, highlighting that the Catholic Church is indeed “a force for good” in the world today. The Church continues to contribute today and proof of this is the gift of WYD which Blessed John Paul II bestowed on the Catholic Youth which has the power to influence all those receptive to the Word of God.

Some might ask why one would travel such as long way to hear the Holy Father speak. For me WYD Madrid will be the time when the Holy Father will be specifically addressing us as young members of the Catholic Church about the Church’s teachings, encouraging us to remain strong, live the faith in our daily lives and be witnesses to the faith through our example. The message of the Holy Father is especially inspiring as he is speaking as Jesus Christ’s representative on earth and I don’t want to be the one to miss it!

In the lead up to this pilgrimage I have attended information sessions which have, not only provided practical information about our fantastic itinerary, packing, and learning the WYD hymn but also imparted good advice on the importance of being spiritually prepared in order to receive fully the graces that will flow forth during this time. I have also sought to learn more about the life of Blessed John Paul II in whose footsteps we will be humbly travelling.

I wish all my fellow pilgrims a wonderful and safe journey as we all strive to be “Planted and built up in Jesus Christ, firm in the faith”.
~ Gemma Green

Ottawa Sends off Pilgrims


In just over a month, more than 100 young people from Ottawa will fly to Madrid, Spain to join hundreds of thousands of others from almost every country on the planet for the 26th edition of World Youth Day. On Friday, July 8th, Archbishop Terrence Prendergast, S.J. will celebrate a send-off Mass with the pilgrims, their families, and their friends at Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica at 5:15 pm.

“I will travel with the group to Madrid for WYD,” announced Archbishop Prendergast. “Our Eucharistic celebration will allow us to unite in prayer with all the generous people who are supporting us in our journey as we prepare for WYD spiritually and financially,” he explained.

“As representatives of the Church of Ottawa, the young people will be sent on a mission to share the Good News with those they will meet during their pilgrimage – in the homes where they will be billeted in Valladolid for five days, and during their week-long series of gatherings in Madrid,” explained Archbishop Prendergast.


A Long Detour in the Right Direction

Denizens of Vancouver, Canada are known for their love of the nature and their taste for outdoor adventure.  For three young people from this gem of a city it seemed natural to mix that with their pilgrimage to Madrid for WYD. On May 17 the brother-and-sister pair Aiden and Crystal Wickey, along with their friend Mark Ho embarked on the Camino do Santiago.Their trek began in the French Pyrenees at St. Jean Pied de Port on May 17 and will take approximately 34 days at an average distance of 26 km per day. These hopefully not-too-exhausted pilgrims will then take in World Youth Day here in Madrid, August 16-21.

Wickey and Ho are keeping a blog of their adventures along the way to give friends and family a chance to participate in the pilgrimage virtually. The “Food Fotos” track their encounters with Spanish cuisine and give those reading their blog a chance to experience the food without having to walk a month. Mark writes near the beginning of his Camino chronicles that “most of our food adventures have been very simple… bread, sardines, chorizo, tomatoes and fruit. Some albergues (hostels) we’ve stayed at provide meals for free to pilgrims.” Ho’s description of the pilgrim menus are almost enough to entice readers to take on the pilgrimage walk. The only deterrent are the photos of road-weary shoes lining the wall of the pilgrims’ hostel in Frómista.

Of course there’s more to the Camino than worn out footware and Gallician food; faith. For the Wickey siblings and Ho, this last and most important trait of the Camino is in abundant supply. For Aiden Wickey, who attended World Youth Day 2002 in Toronto, later spent two years as a seminarian for the Archdiocese of Vancouver and has also worked at Catholic Charities Men’s Hostel, a shelter for destitute men in Vancouver, the Camino has been an enjoyable albeit gruelling experience as well as an important opportunity for spiritual growth and discernment. “The Camino has been an excellent retreat of sorts and in some ways I feel I am getting a small teaser of what is to come at World Youth Day,” said Wickey.

The Madrid experience will be all the more rich thanks to that journey. Ho said the Camino walk has served as a reminder of how the Lord works in His own ways and can use the most unexpected experience to touch one’s heart. He sites the night he and his travel companions spent in a hostel in Tosantos. He said the three slept on the floor of an attic, on nothing more than a thin mat. A group of university students arrived at the hostel shortly after Ho and his friends. “I initially thought it was going to be a mediocre night for us. But I was wrong.” he said. The entire group helped the host prepare the evening meal and set the table, and then sat down at the table together to eat. Ho recalled, “I had the chance to get to know the university students on a more personal level.”  The evening ended with a prayer before bed. Although the prayer was optional all the guests participated, even the university students. “The following day, I found out how the night prayer really impacted some of the students who were not necessarily practicing their faith. One of them shared with me how he had been struggling through life recently that he almost didn’t get to come to the Camino trip. He said he knew God wanted him to be on the Camino for a reason. This is what the Camino does. It gives people something to look forward to. It brings hope to people´s lives,” Ho said.

Montreal prepares for WYD

Pilgrims from the Archdiocese of Montreal remember WYDs and prepare to go to Madrid.

Meet WYD 2011 Pilgrims from the Archdiocese of Vancouver

Vancouver is taking many young people best online casino to Madrid this summer. Find out who they are and why they are going.