Sunday, July 13, 2008
Yesterday we went into Newcastle and were able to spend time overlooking the spectacular waterway. As well as the pleasure crafts, there were enormous coal ships going up and down (hence the expression 'coals to Newcastle'). Newcastle is a major city but the place didn't have an industrial feel at all. There was a WYD event on an open green just under the old fort - the site of a former power station but now wonderfully reclaimed. The event brought together all the WYD pilgrims staying in the diocese of Maitland-Newcastle and the local bishop came down to meet us. It's quite warm here during the day with beautiful blue skies although at night it gets very cold. We had woken up to a surprise frost, so I felt sorry for a group I met from Canada who are camping in an open field. I am already beginning to meet old friends. Yesterday it was Br Jean Marie of the Community of St John who are soon to open a house in Brentwood. Br Jean Marie is a deacon and has led two retreats for young adults in my parish.
So far we have met pilgrims from Colombia, Canada, United Arab Emirates, France, USA, Holland, Ecuador, Mexico and Belgium. When we get to Sydney of course the rest of the world will be represented!
One of the unexpected things about our experience over here so far has been the 'aboriginal dimension'. I find it a bit awkward: yesterday the bishop thanked the aboriginal peoples for allowing us to use their land - but I couldn't help wondering what would be the response if they asked for it back! The previous night we missed most of an aboriginal fire lighting ceremony but since it wasn't conducted by aborigines I was quite glad. When I was a child we used to watch the 'Black and White Minstrel Show' on television but it's not shown any more: the idea of white men 'blacking up' doesn't fit with modern sensibilities. I can't help feeling that in the future the idea of white Christians performing aboriginal ceremonies will be deemed similarly inappropriate!
Our group is getting on very well together and yesterday's event was a very useful introduction to the WYD spirit. Because we were in a fairly contained, safe, area we were able to let them wander off and explore in smaller groups. When we met again at 3.00pm I was pleased to see they were all displaying a fine array of lapel pins from different countries: they had already begun to make contact with people from all over the world and so discover what it means to be part of a 'catholic' Church.