Dreams of “Roos” and Didgeridoos at World Youth Day

University Ministry students and staff were among a quarter-million registered pilgrims to share a sense of Catholic camaraderie “Down Under” during a two-week summer immersion to MAGiS ’08 and World Youth Day in Australia, where they communed with the pope, worked with Aboriginal children, and labored on a sheep farm in the outback.

Youth marchingThe joint trip was a first for University of San Francisco students as a group, said Executive Director of University Ministry Donal Godfrey, S.J., who came up with the idea of the immersion to deepen students’ Catholic identification by being able to express their faith openly and joyfully, while avoiding a sense of being over or against or better than anyone else.

The theme of this year’s World Youth Day, which lasted from July 15 to July 20, came from the scriptures, Acts 1:8—“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses.”

Particularly memorable were the arrival of Pope Benedict XVI by boat into Sydney Harbor as he was greeted by hundreds of thousands of young Roman Catholics; touring the streets of Sydney to witness the Stations of the Cross; and a three-hour pilgrimage through city streets and across Sydney Harbor Bridge for an evening vigil and Mass with the pope that culminated in a 250,000-person sleepover under the stars at the Royal Randwick Racecourse.

“Being a pilgrim on the trip was such an amazing experience, there was a unifying bond that I felt wherever I went, even on the plane ride home,” said sophomore Casey McKinnon.

Helping to drive her reflection was her experience at MAGiS ’08, a local immersion designed to foster Ignatian spirituality through service that was held just prior to the official kick-off of World Youth Day.

For some USF students, that meant working with Aboriginal children in impoverished Bowraville, Australia. For others, it meant dodging kangaroos on dirt roads to reach remote Koomooloo Station, a sheep ranch where students painted buildings, removed fence posts and fence wire, sheared sheep, and collected firewood.

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