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| Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle | www.mn.catholic.org.au
LEAVING SYDNEY AIRPORT, Wednesday
I woke with an overwhelming sense of
excitement. I was heading to Madrid,
Spain for World Youth Day (WYD) 2011.
The amazing stories of the last WYD,
Sydney 2008, made me envy those
who had been able to go. World Youth
Day seemed the perfect opportunity
to take a step forward and reaffirm
my commitment to the Catholic faith
by embracing the diversity of cultures
and celebrating the universality of the
church with others from around the world.
I joined 30 other pilgrims from our diocese,
including principals, teachers, students,
parishioners, diocesan staff and our
chaplain Father Andrew Doohan.
Arriving in Bejar, Spain, Thursday 11 August
Before Madrid, our group travelled to
Bejar, Spain where we lived with Spanish
families and began to understand their
traditions and what religion means to
After 26 hours of travel, I reminded myself,
"Let nothing disturb you, let nothing frighten
you, all things are passing. Patience
obtains all things. He who has God has
everything. God alone suffices." (St Teresa
of Avila, Spain)
Our group leaders asked us all to read a
prayer titled, 'I am a Pilgrim, not a tourist'.
Little did I know how often I would remind
myself of this, every time I felt the urge to
complain about the heat, the rain, or how
tired I felt.
At Bejar, a picturesque town of 15,000
people, roommate Annette and I were
greeted by Ava, A beautiful, Spanish lady
with a smile to light up a room. Ava and
her family spoke no English. Cue four
days of laughs, confused looks, charades,
pictures and a heavy dependence on my
Spanish dictionary and google translator.
Days in the Diocese of Bejar, 12-15 August
Stories and many laughs were
shared as people explained incidents
that had happened as a result of
mis-communication. Many people were
surprised to have experienced hot coffee
poured all over their cereal by their host
families after agreeing to both!
After prayer we embarked on a walking
tour of the township of Bejar, occupied
since the 400s. We visited residents of an
aged care home and presented them with
a gift, depicting Australian icons, made by
residents of Mayfield Aged Care facility.
The next day we climbed a mountain to
visit the town's shrine to Our Lady of
Cantenar -- and celebrated Mass with
all the pilgrims from the surrounding
area and the Bishop of Plasencia. We
enjoyed a cultural evening where young
and old musicians from Bejar performed.
We sang, 'We still call Australia home'
before presenting an image of Our Lady
by Indigenous artist Richard Campbell to
Our last day in Bejar coincided with the
Feast of the Assumption. The town was
quieter than usual as we exchanged gifts
we had brought for our host families. As
we boarded the bus for Madrid, they
sang and danced their farewell. So many
beautiful people had opened their hearts
WYD MADRID 2011
not a tourist
I am a pilgrim,
By EMMA BLACKFORD
Pilgrims from Maitland-Newcastle at the
sleep- out (photo courtesy of Elroy Aguiar).
All photos courtesy of Emma Blackford
unless otherwise indicated.
Musicians at Bejar (Elroy)
Communications Manager Emma Blackford reflects on myriad
experiences in Spain last month. For the full story please visit
8 Kelly McDuff, Ally Smith, Larissa
Smith, Sarah Abrahamse, Alex
Gooley, Harry Gibson, Tamara Smith
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