4000 Kiwi Pilgrims get packing
4000 Kiwi Pilgrims get packing for World Youth Day 7 July 2008
4000 Kiwi pilgrims are counting the “sleeps” until they arrive in Sydney for World Youth Day, joining Pope Benedict XVI and 220,000 other pilgrims from around the world. They’ll form the biggest single group ever to leave NZ for a non-sporting event. And for every Kiwi pilgrim heading over the ditch, there is another here doing the same thing, as 4000 international visitors began arriving in New Zealand on Friday for the pre-WYD celebrations called Days in the Dioceses.
Getting 8000 pilgrims from New Zealand’s international airports to Sydney has required travel to be staggered over almost a week. New Zealand’s international airports are putting in place special arrangements to streamline the processing of the large numbers.
For Palmerston North pilgrim Jane Dravitski, getting to Sydney will mean a night drive from Palmerston North to Hamilton to catch a 6.25am flight to Sydney. “It’s all part of the pilgrimage,” says Dravitski. “World Youth Day isn’t just a holiday in Sydney, it’s a challenging experience of growth - spiritually, mentally and physically.”
The practicalities of the pilgrimage include packing for simple accommodation. For most pilgrims, the floors of school classrooms, church halls and community centres will be their homes for the week. In addition, the pilgrims must plan for a sleep-out under the stars at Randwick Racecourse for the final Evening Vigil – rain, hail or shine.
“Apart from the necessity to house pilgrims in simple quarters in order to accommodate them all, the simplicity is an important aspect of pilgrimage,” says Dave Mullin, the National WYD Project Manager for New Zealand. Pilgrims have been prepared by their leaders and those who attended previous World Youth Days that the cold, the wet, the queues, the uncertainty, and tough physical conditions are all a part of the great challenge that is “pilgrimage”.
Co-ordinators and over 250 group leaders
have been putting in long hours to ensure the pilgrims are
practically, as well as spiritually, prepared. This has
included the distribution of
4000 sets of travel documents, black
‘NZ pilgrim’ hoodies, plus a couple of thousand airbeds for the overnight sleep-out.