Toronto Pilgrims arrive down under

  • July 11, 2008

MELBOURNE, Australia - Many pilgrims from across the Archdiocese of Toronto didn't anticipate the long length of time that it would take to get to Melbourne. But after nearly 21 hours spent sleeping and worrying about our backs breaking, we arrived safe and sound early yesterday morning.

This morning, pilgrims returned to St. Kevin's Parish in Ormond, located in the suburbs of Melbourne, after spending the night with their host families. Host families belong to either St. Kevin's or St. Patrick's parishes.

Fr. Robert Mignella, one of the three priests in our delegation, celebrated Mass for the Toronto pilgrims and local parishioners this morning. In his homily, he referred to us delegates as "missionaries."

"As we journey to Sydney, I pray that you will take on the role of a missionary. As our theme so clearly states, we are called to receive the spirit and its power and become witnesses," Mignella said.

I had the great fortune of eating dinner with my host parents last night. Their three children are 14, 12 and 10. After a day filled with numerous activities, it is hard to be tired. In particular, I feed off of their energy. Within a day, I've felt like I've known this family my entire life. The hospitality they've provided is remarkable and heart warming.

The citizens of Melbourne have still not come to the realization about what is happening here. When we travelled on the train back into the city this morning, locals questioned our every move. Why we were there, what the purpose of our trip was and where we came from were questions we got used to answering on a frequent basis. We spoke with a few commuters and garnered a lot of attention.

We travelled to the Queen Victoria Market (reminiscent of Toronto's St. Lawrence Market) where we were able to purchase souvenirs from vendors. Afterwards, our group made its way to St. Augustine's Catholic Church in downtown Melbourne, which had its doors open to pilgrims of all faiths. At 2 p.m., we took part in a Taizé prayer service.

After numerous attempts to find a nice restaurant downtown, we settled on an Italian restaurant. We then headed to the Telstra dome, similar to the Rogers Centre in Toronto, for a commissioning Mass, celebrated by Archbishop Denis Hart of Melbourne. Close to 50,000 delegates were in attendance.

This day has been a very busy one. Tomorrow plans to be even busier.

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