Fr Joseph Reddy SVD is heading to Panama next month with 24 young people from the Wollongong Diocese to take part in his first World Youth Day experience.
Fr Joseph, who is assistant priest at Mary Mother of the Church Parish in Macquarie Fields, will be a chaplain to the group, which is mostly made up of teachers, aged in their 20s, from Diocese of Wollongong schools.
Before they arrive in Panama for World Youth Day with Pope Francis, the group is taking a pilgrimage to Lima, Peru.
There, they will take in Lima’s rich history, as well as the modern city and faith-based sites of interest, including the Cristo del Pacifico in Chorrillos, a 37 metre statue built to resemble the Christ statue if Rio de Janeiro, as well as statues of the Peruvian saints – St Rose of Lima and St Martin de Porres.
The group will visit many significant churches in Lima, such as the Santo Domingo Cenvent, dating back to the end of the 16th Century.
Arriving in Panama on Sunday, January 20, the group will have a day at leisure to look around Panama City before launching into World Youth Day celebrations the following day, with the Opening Mass.
During WYD, Fr Joseph and his group will take part in morning catechesis with bishops from around the world and take part in the Youth Festival Program and the Vocations Expo.
Pope Francis will arrive at WYD on Thursday, January 24 and on Friday, pilgrims will gather for the Way of the Cross which will wind its way through the streets of the city. The WYD Vigil with the Holy Father will take place on Saturday night, followed by the Closing Mass, celebrated by Pope Francis on Friday.
Following the WYD events, the Wollongong group will take part in a retreat at Playa Blanca.
Fr Joseph says that as it is his first time at World Youth Day, he is looking forward to the whole experience.
“I’m looking forward to seeing the universal faith of youth that is bubbling up, and being touched by it,” he says.
“And the contagious experience of this faith is going to broaden my faith experience. Faiths shared are faiths enriched.”
Fr Joseph says he believes World Youth Day plays an important role in the lives of the young people who attend.
“I think especially for the youth in Australia it offers a lot, because the situation they are in can be challenging, especially in the wake of the Royal Commission and the abuse scandal,” he says.
“This WYD brings encouragement and sustainable hope that allows them to be enriched.”
PHOTO: Fr Joseph Reddy, front right, with some of the group of young people from the Diocese of Wollongong who are heading to World Youth Day in Panama.