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Thursday, July 17, 2008

Days 7-8-9-10-11-12-13-14 News of our WYD Pilgrims

Hello everyone! No, we didn't fall off the end of the Earth.... Last Thursday July 10th, our day 7, I spent several hours in the afternoon becoming familiar with the St Patrick Parish PC and tried to load up photos to Photobucket and my blog, and also to send you news.

Our hosts then offered us supper cocktails style, with volunteers passing among us with trays of various homemade or bought goodies, mostly hot, and a good time was had by all. For my part, I was not feeling so good, having started with a sore throat the day of our arrival and now having trouble speaking without coughing at the end of the day.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I spent Friday and Saturday morning recuperating at Dale and Dave Elliot. In the afternoon they drove me to the Cathedral where they joined us for a Mass I presided for our pilgrims. I then rejoined them for a visit to Kelly Taltons, an oceanarium with a history of Antarctic exploration. That night we all had dinner as usual with our host families except for the 8 of us at the Monastery. We were invited to go as two groups to two other families and then four of us and our family joined the other group and family to watch a rugby match between the New Zealand All Blacks and the South Africa Springbocks - well was that ever exciting. The Kiwis really take their rugby seriously and it as almost as loud with the 35 people in that living room as in the Canadians' forum!

Sunday we joined the Parish for their main 10 am Mass and our pilgrims sang a few songs with the local choir, who were very good! In the afternoon there was a pilgrim walk to Tyburn Monastery, where 8 of us were staying, and the Mothers received them with refreshments. Then we went to the chapel for a holy hour of prayer and adoration. It was meaningful and very touching. That night we all went out to Peter O'Connell's for a Farewell Bar-B-Q. When touching words were exchanged and also the next morning, heart swelled with emotion as both our youth and our hosts were reluctant to see these days come to an end, but of course they must and did.

Since Monday we have had very full days. We are staying at the Olympic Park in a sportplex called the Dome, sleeping on mats 18 inches apart on the sides and 6 feet apart at the head, with the feet on the aisles, with over 3000 other pilgrims!!!! We wouldn't have believed it when we arrives, but after full days of walking around from 7:30 am to 9:30 pm, we're glad to come back to our "Home Sweet Dome".

Tuesday we had the opening Mass presided by Cardinal Pell. Yesterday and today and again tomorrow (Friday) morning we along with Transfiguration and Holy Name of Jesus are animating the morning catecheses given by a different bishop each day. Our youth are having a blast getting 2 to 3000 pilgrims singing in another sport arena... One of the most exciting, moving and draining experiences of these days is marching up boulevards closed to traffic immersed in a sea of tens of thousands of other pilgrims travelling in groups like schools of fish, carrying flags and chanting in their own languages....

I'm about to run out of dollar coins and time and I'll take it to the max....

Some of us have had scratchy throats and today we descended on a 'chemist' - what they call a pharmacy - and scooped up remedies and lozenges... Don't worry parents, we are taking good care of your youth. They aren't much different with us as they are with you.... We look forward to all having internet access and sending longer messages. God bless you and until next time...

Today we got to see Benny!!!

Pax + Caritas

Fr. Gilles

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Days 6-7-8-9-10-11 Catching up on our travelogue

It's already 5 days ago that we made our way from the Waitomo grotto caves to St Patrick Parish here in Pukekohe, some 40 kilometers out of Auckland. Don't ask me what direction.... It's all so disorienting... We put on our bright red Habs shirts and grouped together outside the entrance of the Parish Hall (it's on the right, with the church in the middle and the rectory on the left) where a contingent of parishioners had gathered to welcome us, with folk of every generation from grandparents to toddlers....

We sang a song and an elder religious Sister Mary Martin sang a Maori welcome... There were some official words of welcome by Vicky, the Parish WYD Coordinator for these Days in the Diocese, and others. Then we all mingled and piled into the hall for "afternoon tea" .... it was all so civilized and proper, a good rest and food for body and soul after our long bus ride.

There was much mingling and introductions and in time we were all introduced and assigned to our host families... 8 of us were to stay and Tyburn Monastery, where 5 Benedictine nuns carry on continuous adoration and maintain a house of prayer and retreat. We were delighted to arrive to a warm supper waiting at 6:30 and later settled into our rooms. We joined the sisters for Night Prayer (Compline) which was very touching. The sisters sang with such small, delicate voices, as though expressing to the Lord with great affection their poverty and fewness in numbers and yet great confidence in his love and faithful help....

We were blessed with individual rooms with electric space heaters... and enjoyed showers and good food. The sisters prepared lunches for us, whether midday meal was already planned or not and we all found enough appetite to eat them, if not for lunch then for a snack in mid-morning or afternoon. We didn't get to see the beauty of the site where we were living until the weekend because we arrived at night after dark hits at 5 pm and left before morning light after 8 am.

Thursday - Day 7

We made our own breakfast from what the Sisters provided in the guest house: whole wheat bread, toasters, peanut butter and jams, fresh fruit, teas and coffee, milk, etc. Thursday, Friday and today Monday we made our way to the church for 8:45 to prepare for morning Mass at 9:00 with Frs. Peter Gray and Ikenasio Vilaliano (a Samoan), who have been simply wonderful. This first morning here we chatted and then were led on foot to a public park where we would perform a public service as part of our stay. Vicky said it was not far, just two blocks. She didn't say it would be two New Zealand blocks, which made it a 20 minute walk!

The weather was lovely and mostly sunny, though, and we enjoyed the walk and chatting, and photo ops. We arrived at this lovely park complete with hillside, gully, spring, trees, grass, and had 300 "trees" to plant. They were grasses and tropical tree seedlings around 12 to 24 inches high with root balls. Digging holes in the ground varied from very dry and hard ground to soft and muddy near the stream. Yes, some of us managed to get properly muddy and one of the local boys (6 foot +) managed to trip on a tree root jumping over the stream and landed one foot squarely in the water.... lots of giggling all around, and he was a good sport...

This was real labor, and many of our pilgrims looked like they had never handled a spade or shovel before, but quickly got the hang of it.... and all experienced deep satisfaction at making a difference and planting seedlings that would live on for many years and help the local Council reclaim unused land previously used as dumps.... The camaraderie and cooperation was a wonder to behold as pilgrims worked and helped each other and took time to have fun while still getting the job done. The organizers were thrilled at the group's progress and delighted that all 300 seedlings were planted.

We leisurely made our way to the other side of the stream and park where a grill had been set up and as Sami put it "an infinite number of sausages" were waiting for us... They do it simply here, serving on a slice of bread you could grill yourself, with butter, and ketchup... there were fruit and cookies... and of course the guys and a few gals played Haki Sak....

to be continued.....

Days 6-7-8-9-10-11 Our wonderful stay in Pukekohe, New Zealand

Good Day! Please note I've edited the previous post titles a little to put order in the photos postings: 001 is the Sunday Mass sendoff of June 28-29, 002 is the first posting of photos from New Zealand, and 003 is the most recent posting of photos from here. Now we are Monday morning and preparing to leave at noon. We've had a wonderful stay here in the little town of Pukekohe, among the people of St. Patrick Parish. I'm going to check on what's happening and if there's time I will return to catch up on my travelogue.

You see I've been out of commission for a bit. On our first day a week ago Friday it turned cold, rainy and windy and we walked, the leaders, back from a restaurant after Mass at St. Benedict in Auckland, and I caught a chill. Sore throat, dry cough when I tried to speak... So the leaders agreed I should go to see a doctor. Helene and Kim's hosts, Dale and Doug Elliot brought me to the clinic where she works as receptionist and a doctor put me on penicillin and other tablets, rest, Vitamin C, keeping warm, etc. I spent Friday and Saturday morning at Dale and Dave, and they drove me in to St Patrick Cathedral in Auckland where the pilgrims came after a climb up a volcano on the island in the harbour and we prepared and celebrated the Holy Eucharist.

It was a marvelous Mass in a remarkable setting, a beautiful worship space recently renovated. The Lord inspires us at such moments with meaningful words, pregnant silences, moving singing and touching communion of spirits.... So I'm still recovering, and I managed yesterday to have the PC load photos to Photobucket during our 10 am Sunday Mass with the parishioners, and after Mass sent them to the blog. Now I'll go check on the rest of our group and may or may not come back to continue the travelogue where I left off last week. God bless. Pax + Caritas.

We all love you our families, friends, parishioners very, very much, carry you and our intentions in our hearts and prayers and at Mass, and wish you were here with us, and look forward to see you again soon.... Hugs and kisses from everyone!!!!!!! ooooooo xxxxxx

Fr. Gilles for all our Pilgrims