This year the World Youth Day will be celebrated in the city of Krakow, Poland from the 25th to 31st July 2016. Young people aged from 16 to 35 years old from around the world will assemble in Poland.  The World Youth Day of 2013 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil that I attended is always in my mind.

I will share a few thoughts about the effect WYD had on me as a person. I had a great experience of personal conversion being with the youth. The youth long to experience the love of God and the experience of being loved by others. Journeying along with the youth inspired me to focus on the youth apostolate in parish work. Being a young priest, I can empathise with the feelings, emotions, struggles and challenges of the youth.

In and around Inala, eight young people, in last two years, have committed suicide.  It is a tragedy when young people cannot see meaning in their life and lose hope for their future. The reality of the youth experience in Australia shows me the importance of listening to them and spending time with them. I initially had a negative bias against same sex couples, but after the World Youth Day in Brazil, I am able to accept them in my parish ministry. I have shared hospitality with same sex couples, and my previous judgemental attitudes towards them have changed within me.

The theme of the WYD 2013, “Go and make disciples of all peoples” (Mt 28:19) reminds me as a Divine Word Missionary to focus on the proclamation of the Word of God.  I take risks and respond to challenges in my preaching of the Word of God.  I always focus on the real life context of the youth, young married couples, the poor and marginalized.

Another example I would like to share:  A young Sri Lankan man struggled to settle in Australia.  I walked with him in his personal emotional and financial struggles – sharing both my time and my personal financial resources with him.

The inspiration of WYD 2013 gave me the desire to do this, and has overall given a greater meaning to my priestly ministry.

This year 2016, the theme of the World Youth Day, announced by Holy Father Pope Francis, is “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy” (Mt 5:7). It is a beautiful theme as we are in the Year of Mercy. God pours out the mercy of God on all young people.

Unfortunately, I am not able to journey with the youth this year due to the high cost of this pilgrimage. Let us pray for the youth around the world, that they experience the mercy of God.