Year of Youth 2018

Countdown to WYD Rio with Harvest Pilgrimages

Last edited 14th February 2012

Countdown to WYD Rio with Harvest Pilgrimages

With just 18 months to go until Rio de Janeiro welcomes pilgrims from every corner of the globe for World Youth Day 2013, Australian travel agency, Harvest Pilgrimages is working around the clock.

Having successfully organised travel for World Youth Days since 2000, and winning acclaim for travel arrangements for the thousands of pilgrims who attended WYD08 in Sydney as well as last year's World Youth Day celebrations in Madrid, Harvest Pilgrimages has once again been named Australia's official National Tour Provider for WYD13 by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC).

"It is a great honour our company has been asked again to play such an important role in this next chapter of Australia's journey to WYD in Rio," says Philip Ryall, Managing Director of Harvest Pilgrimages, which was awarded the City of Sydney's 2011 Business Award for Tourism in recognition of the growing demand for pilgrimages among Australia's overseas travellers.

Group leaders from parishes and youth organisations across the country are already fund raising and planning for WYD13, with a familiarisation tour of Rio organised by Harvest Pilgrimages and set for May this year.

"Many will be very glad to have Harvest's travel expertise in the unfamiliar territory of South America. The rich and vibrant Catholic culture in this part of the world will offer Aussie pilgrims a wonderful chance to experience the local faith and people," says Selina Hasham, Chair of the national WYD Committee for the Bishops' Commission for Pastoral Life.

Normally WYD is held every three years but this was shortened to just two years after WYD in Madrid to prevent the international celebration of faith clashing with the FIFA World Cup set to be held in Rio de Janeiro in 2014.

"With only two years between WYDs we have a lot of work to do to ensure Australia's young pilgrims are ready, both practically and pastorally," Selina says.

Since Pope John Paul II initiated World Youth Day in 1984 the weeklong event of prayer, friendship and faith has been held only once before in South America. This was back in 1987 and attended only by a handful of Australians.

As Philip Ryall points out travel in those days was not only more expensive but there were fewer flights operating between Australia and South America. But today, South America has become increasingly popular for Australia's backpackers and young people and lower air fares mean travel to countries such as Argentina, Brazil and Peru are far more affordable.

But it took WYD08 when hundreds of thousands of pilgrims gathered in Sydney for Australia's youth to discover the real impact of World Youth Day, Philip believes.

"Seeing the 4000 plus Aussie pilgrims flood the streets of Madrid was really something to behold. It was truly see young people discover the act of faith, the depth of which most didn't realise they possessed until they embarked on this adventure, sharing their journey with other like-minded pilgrims from every corner of the globe," he says.

The young pilgrims also discovered an entirely new way to travel, not as a tourist but instead as a pilgrim.

"People are beginning to understand the amazing benefits a pilgrimage offers, with this spiritual journey made even more profound by the fellow participants and friendships formed along the way," Philip says.

During the lead up to WYD in Madrid, Harvest Pilgrimages not only arranged travel arrangements for more than 4000 young Australians, bishops, priests and religious, but was able to offer travellers a wide range of affordable and unique pilgrimages to holy sites throughout Europe and the Holy Land.

These served to prepare those attending WYD pastorally and spiritually and included a three week journey from Cairo to the famous Biblical sites of Egypt including the Dead Sea and Mt Sinai before crossing into Israel to visit Galilee, Bethlehem and Jerusalem. Led by the Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell, the tour was unforgettable and its impact on those who took part, long lasting and life changing.

Harvest's other pilgrimages had an equally profound effect that the young pilgrims insisted would last long after the photographs had faded and their blogs to friends forgotten.

One such pilgrimage journeyed through Italy from Assisi to other beloved shrines while another offered the young people to walk the famous Camino de Santiago de Compostela trail through Spain from the foothills of the Pyrenees to the lush green valleys of Galicia and on to Santiago.

"We will also be offering pilgrimages in the lead up to WYD in Rio," says Philip who has already travelled to South America to begin making arrangements.

Among the pilgrimages planned will be a pilgrimage to Tepeyac Hill in Mexico City to pray at the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, patron saint of the Americas or a visit to the shrines and holy sites of Peru.

The bonds between Peru and Australia go back many years and have been further strengthened by the work of the Sisters of St Joseph who have had a Josephite community based in Peru since the 1980s. The Marian Community of Reconciliation forged another link. This community of lay women often known as the Fraternas, was founded in Peru by Father Luis Fernado Figari and now has a strong presence and members across Australia.

Sydney diocesan priest, Fr John Andersen is also based in Peru where with the blessing and support of the Archdiocese of Sydney, he ministers to the Parish of Santa Rosa in Iquitos, the city on the banks of the Amazon in the Peruvian rainforest.

But for all those travelling to South America, the highlight and culmination of the journey will be the six days of WYD in Rio.

"The Holy Father's theme for WYD next year is to go and make disciples of all nations. And what better place to do this against a backdrop of Rio with its stunning diversity and merging of cultures, and under the outstretched welcoming arms of the city's wonderful 39.6 metre tall statue of Christ the Redeemer," he says.

To find out more about travel arrangements for WYD13 in Rio log on to or call 1800 819 156

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