I am attending World Youth Day 2008 in Sydney, Australia, at the invitation of the Province of Australia. Recognizing the event as a unique opportunity for evangelizing youth and, at the same time, for increasing awareness about the Capuchin Order especially in English-speaking areas of the world, the Provincial Minister of Australia worked hard to get a good showing of young Capuchins from around the world. The provinces of North America responded particularly well, sending around twenty friars. In addition, there are Capuchins from Italy, Poland, Germany, Guam and probably others countries, as well. There are even two Capuchin postulants from East Timor in attendance. At the vocations exhibit set up at the Exhibition Center on Tuesday, the Capuchins were easily the largest group on hand.
The friars of the Australian Province have been working feverishly for the past six months arranging lodging for the friars, venues for various activities, speakers for catechesis and hundreds of other details. Bush hats off to them for their excellent (dare I say, uncharacteristic) organization!
Although the opening Mass of WYD was celebrated Tuesday afternoon, some events began already that morning. One of them was the abovementioned vocations exhibit. Various musicians entertained the crowds of young people at the exhibit, including the Australian Province's own Brother Dean Mathieson. At the vocation booth, the friars had several kinds of literature about the Capuchin Order, as well as label pins with the Province's website listed on it. The booth was well visited, both by prospective candidates and by people who wanted to let us know how much they appreciate the Capuchins friars working in their home countries. It was an uplifting and humbling experience to hear their appreciation.
The opening Mass began at 4:30 in the afternoon, with Cardinal George Pell of the Sydney Archdiocese presiding. The venue of the Mass was an area along Darling Harbor officially known as Barangaroo, but known to the locals as "The Hungry Mile". Getting there and finding one's place was predictably chaotic, but spirits were high nonetheless. Before the liturgy, the pilgrims were greeting by Australia's Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, who praised the role of religion, and Christianity in particular, in the history of society. The liturgy itself was very beautiful, incorporating music inspired by the cultures of the Aborigines, the Maori and some of the nearby islands. While the friars were somewhat scattered among the crowd, there was a visible reminder of their presence at WYD in the person of Cardinal Sean O'Malley, who was near the main celebrant during the Mass and frequently shown on the Jumbotron.