Record Turn-out at World Youth Day Auckland

11 Worship WYD


Nearly 1000 young people flocked to World Youth Day [WYD] in Auckland on August 6 to celebrate their Catholic faith and their love for Jesus.

The attendance was three times greater than last year.

The event at Sancta Maria College in Flat Bush coincided with the global gathering of young people in Lisbon, Portugal, where 1.5 million other Catholics from around the world were present, including 126 people from New Zealand. Just over 40 per cent [52] were from Auckland. This is compared to 12 people who went to Panama in 2019.

This is the second Auckland WYD since the Covid-19 lockdowns. Australian musician and keynote speaker Liam Desić flew from Brisbane to be at the event. Desić leads Emmanuel Worship and is part of the Emmanuel Community, a charismatic Catholic community born out of the charismatic renewal in the 1970s. Desić shared his story of his daughter’s battle with leukaemia, and how God met him during that “crazy time”.

Desić said that the theme of this year’s World Youth Day, “Mary arose and went with haste”, resembles the need to proclaim Jesus in urgency. It encouraged the young participants to follow the example of Mary, the first disciple in proclaiming Christ.

“Mary was all about Jesus. When Mary goes with haste, she’s going with haste to proclaim the Lord. She’s going with haste because Jesus is literally a part of her life right now.”

He said that, what young people really want, if they’re really open, is a stronger, more powerful Jesus who can change their lives.

“That’s the story of Mary, and that’s the story of her as a first disciple, and that’s the story of me and of so many Catholics.”

Another speaker, an Auckland local, Therese Lautua, also shared about what it meant to arise and go with haste like Mary did, from a motherhood perspective.

Ema Tukutukunga, 23, from Otahuhu’s St Joseph’s and St Joachim church, said that she came to find others outside the four walls of her church and youth group, who are on the same faith journey as she is.

“Try to find where we are in faith. When you’re so comfortable in your own four walls, you’re too shy to go out and meet others. When I was comfortable in my own four walls, I didn’t realise how there were so many others outside who were pretty much on the same journey. And being on that same journey together just makes me feel a whole lot more at peace.”

Ms Tukutukunga was one of hundreds of young adults at the event. Auckland diocese event and engagement coordinator Felicity Meijer was delighted to see a turnout of some 900 attendees, when the expected attendance was 600.

“It gives an experience of our faith being bigger than ourselves, and we’re being connected to a bigger community,” she said.

Ms Meijer said that the event was run differently from last year’s event. It was slightly bigger and longer to allow young people to encounter God.

“We’re having a range of voices, so that young people can connect in different ways. Maybe they’ll connect through the music, maybe they will connect to the many people who are speaking, and especially testimony, and just story and reflection on what the theme means to them. I definitely know for me that’s the most powerful thing, when I am listening to those stories.”

“Or we’ve got Mass as part of the day [with the Eucharist being] the source and summit of our faith as well. And then adoration and reconciliation, which a lot of teens might not have entered into before; the hope is that every part of the event helps them draw a little bit deeper, or maybe draw them into an encounter or a way of encountering of Christ that they haven’t quite entered into before, that’s the hope.”

The event included Bishop Stephen Lowe celebrating Mass, with more than a dozen priests concelebrating.

Ms Mejier said that youth ministry has changed since Covid-19, when thousands used to show up at events like World Youth Day. There’s a definite growth now, however, albeit slow.

“Ministry in general post-Covid-19 [has changed]. We’re sort of re-building [things] and [it] has given us the opportunity to look at different ways we could do things. Whether it’s modernising the music, whether it’s bringing in different people to talk.”

In the end, WYD Auckland was a testament to the enduring strength of faith, the power of community, and the transformative impact of encountering Jesus. The young attendees returned to their homes and local communities, carrying with them the flame of inspiration ignited, ready to continue their journey of faith with a deeper connection to God, and a stronger bond with their fellow Catholics.

Posted in

NZ Catholic contributor

Reader Interactions

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *