Pilgrims’ New England experience begins at St Albert’s

Published 15 July 2008

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St Albert’s College at the University of New England was a temporary home for more than 240 young people from Belgium, Germany and The Philippines last week before they dispersed to billets throughout the Armidale Diocese.

The young people – pilgrims on their way to this week’s World Youth Day celebrations in Sydney – spent several days at St Albert’s, where they had a chance to meet each other and gain their first experiences of Australia. They saw kangaroos in the University’s deer   park, marvelled at the flocks of colourful parrots that visit the campus, and toured University facilities such as Sport UNE.

“It’s our part of World Youth Day,” said the Master of St Albert’s College, Geoff Johnston. “In this – ‘phase one’ of their pilgrimage in Australia – we enable them to settle and acclimatise before they move out into ‘phase two’: their ‘Days in the Diocese’.”

Felix Moseler is one of a group of 22 high-school students from Ahlen in Germany that stayed at St Albert’s. He said that he was excited about the prospect of meeting people from so many different cultures, and impressed with his first taste of Australia. The Ahlen group has been raising money for their pilgrimage for the past 18 months through jobs such as gardening and catering.

After a special Mass at St Mary’s and St  Joseph’s Catholic Cathedral in Armidale last Thursday morning, followed by a civic reception at the Ex-Services Memorial Club, the pilgrims dispersed to their billets with families throughout the Diocese – the Ahlen group going to Uralla.

During those ‘Days in the Diocese’, the young pilgrims attended a bush dance and a fireworks display, saw sheep-shearing at a local station, and experienced many other aspects of Australian culture and the natural environment of New England.

Yesterday [Monday 14 July], all the pilgrims travelled to Sydney in preparation for the arrival of Pope Benedict XVI, and their World Youth Day experience will culminate with the Papal Mass at Randwick Racecourse on Sunday 20 July.

THE PHOTOGRAPH displayed here shows World Youth Day pilgrims from Belgium at St Albert’s College.