World Youth Day experience for Lismore parish, Australiawritten by Natasha Wotherspoon.

World Youth Day (WYD) 2023 was an absolute blessing for which I will never tire of being grateful. I was fortunate to be able to experience this journey with 34 other pilgrims from the Diocese and 1.5 million people from all over the world. To have the opportunity to represent my diocese in something so monumental was an incredible experience.

I grew up Catholic, but never explored the possibilities of faith and what a relationship with God might look like until I was 17 years old. Since then, I have raised my hand to participate in any programme or initiative that would allow me to deepen my faith and grow in my relationship with God. For me, WYD was the epitome of this.

At WYD I had many incredible opportunities to visit churches and cathedrals, walk the same streets where the saints walked, visit places where miracles took place and even see the site of the apparitions where Mary manifested herself to the children of Fatima. We were blessed to attend mass every day and had several opportunities for reconciliation if we wished. I was also very fortunate to be asked to be the Mistress of Ceremonies at the Australian gathering, in front of 4,000 other Australians, along with Bianca McInnes, a pilgrim from Lismore. It was an incredible privilege that I will never forget.

Coming out of WYD I discovered a great appreciation for Mother Mary and the Holy Rosary. I have learned the power of the Rosary and how beneficial it can be for prayer. WYD also gave me a great sense of peace that I have treasured. Since I have been home I am excited to "spend time with God", as Bishop Barron said. To enter into moments of prayer with God and to concentrate so hard that the time flies by. Spending intentional time in prayer and cherishing the experience of mass.

The WYD itself had some difficulties, such as the heat and tiredness, but in the great logistics of the gathering it was nothing compared to the joy and love I felt during the pilgrimage. I felt very blessed to be part of this pilgrimage and I can't wait to share Pope Francis' message that "Jesus knows us, loves us and has a plan for our lives" with the rest of the young people in our diocese.

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