A world away from Poland yet still celebrating World Youth Day.

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Over the weekend 160 students from 11 Catholic schools around the South Island, came together at the Marian College and Catholic Cathedral College site in Christchurch for a weekend of faith, friendship and fun. The event was dreamt up 18 months ago so students could have their own World Youth Day experience despite not being in Poland.

The weekend started with an opening ceremony and Powhiri (Maori welcoming ceremony). During this there was an address by the Polish Ambassador in New Zealand Zbigniew Gniatkowski who gave some insight into the areas Pope Francis would be visiting during his time in Poland.

In the evening everyone was treated to a wonderful Polish evening. The Polish community in Christchurch came and gave a brilliant insight into their culture. They described their traditional clothing, sang songs, played videos about Poland and danced. The students were so engaged and interacted with the dancing, learning the steps and having a great time. The evening was capped off with the students being given a traditional Polish donut to enjoy.

 

 

In the evening everyone was treated to a wonderful Polish evening. The Polish community in Christchurch came and gave a brilliant insight into their culture. They described their traditional clothing, sang songs, played videos about Poland and danced. The students were so engaged and interacted with the dancing, learning the steps and having a great time. The evening was capped off with the students being given a traditional Polish donut to enjoy.

 

Saturday morning was all about service. In groups the students went to six different parishes around the city helping out in all sorts of different ways, with some cleaning windows, clearing gardens and gutters, moving furniture, painting, laying pavers and even helping at St. Vincent de Paul. The students finished the morning with lunch at all the different locations.  

A Faith Expo in the afternoon provided the students with so much information about groups in the church including St. Vincent de Paul and Caritas and there was also a station for them to make their own rosary beads.

 Sunday was pilgrimage day. All 160 students plus staff and volunteers at the event walked through central Christchurch carrying their own World Youth Day cross to the Transitional Anglican Cathedral. Here they were greeted by the Dean of the Cathedral and had a prayer, listened to a reading and sang a hymn before breaking into groups and starting their own treks around to different faith points in the city. They walked to the City Mission, Cathedral Square, the Jewish Synagogue; the site of the former Anglican Church St. Luke’s, Barbadoes St cemetery visiting the grave of Mary MacKillop’s brother John and the Te Rangimarie centre, learning at each site either about a different faith, history about the site or saying a prayer. The pilgrimage ended at St. Mary’s Pro Cathedral in town with a prayer.

In the evening the students attended mass before settling down to watch the live stream of Pope Francis saying mass to the 3 million pilgrims gathered in Poland.

The Christchurch pilgrims left on Monday morning having connected more with their faith, made new friends and learnt more about Poland. And although not in Poland the students had a taste of what it would have been like to have been there, united as a group of young people in faith.

 
 
 
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