We give thanks to the Lord for all he has done over the past 3 weeks – he has truly exceeded our expectations in every way!

We have enjoyed the most marvelous pilgrimage experience & have been transformed by the Lord’s love & mercy.

To all those who have followed our journey from home in Australia (or elsewhere in the world), Thankyou for your love & prayers.

Know that we were praying for you each day.

May the graces of our pilgrimage continue to flow long into the future.

‘Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy’ – Matthew 5:7

Zakopane – Three day retreat in the Polish mountains

With World Youth Day week behind us, we headed south to Zakopane, to begin a 3 day retreat in the mountains.

On the way we stopped in at Wadowice, the home town of Saint Pope John Paul II.

What a gorgeous town! We visited the church in which JPII was baptised – the basilica of the resentation of the blessed Virgin Mary.

The church contains relics of Saint JPII and St Maxilimilian Kolbe.

Right next door to the church is JPII’s family home. It’s situated on what is now a busy town square, and on the day we visited, it was full of WYD pilgrims.

Another highlight of visiting JPII’s home town, was enjoying one of his favourite treats – Kremoka Papieska. It’s a delicious cake, similar to a vanilla slice. The queue outside the town’s famous bakery was indicative of the popularity of this treat – and the long lineup was well worth the wait!

We piled back into the bus & continued south to Zakopane.

The lovely & hospitable Ursuline sisters welcomed us with wide smiles & open arms. The sisters have run this retreat house in the Zakopane mountains for decades & it’s the very same retreat house where JPII stayed for 16 years while he was Priest, Bishop and Cardinal in Kraków!

He also visited the retreat house as Pope, and the room he stayed in is preserved to this day – even the linen is unchanged!

It was such a blessing to stay here! Celebrating Eucharist in the same chapel in which JPII worshipped.

After dinner we entered into 24 hours of ‘silence’, to allow us time to really connect with the Lord & process all that he had done in our lives over the previous few weeks.

It was initially a bit daunting for those who had never before participated in a silent retreat, but it proved extremely fruitful!

We still enjoyed communal time, with mass & praise, & Fr Christoph gave us great input & teaching on how to make the most of our quiet time with the Lord.

Tuesday ended with a beautiful night of prayer & praise, where we had the opportunity to invite the Holy Spirit into our lives (again or for the first time). So powerful!

On Wednesday morning we set off for a day of bushwalking in the mountains.

The climb was very steep in parts, & it was definitely a physical challenge, but the view from the top was totally worth it! At every turn, breathtaking vistas!

We finished the walk with mass at a small chapel in the mountains, before heading home, tired but satisfied.

Tonight we celebrated our final night together. It was a fantastic evening at a local restaurant. Delicious food & excellent conversation – and dancing!

It was a night of mixed emotions – joy & celebration, but sadness as we prepared to say goodbye to our fellow pilgrims, who were now like family.

It was an early start the following morning – we had a long bus journey ahead of us, travelling south through Slovakia & into Hungary, where we would fly home from Budapest.

After three weeks together, it was time to say goodbye.

There were hugs & tears at the airport as we said farewell to Poland, and to those who were leaving the main group to continue further travel.

We had truly shared an adventure of a lifetime! Following in the footsteps of Jesus through the Holy Land before joining millions in Poland to celebrate World Youth Day.

We had formed friendships that would last a lifetime, & we were grateful to the Lord for all he had done.

‘The Lord has done great things for me & Holy is his name’ – Luke 1:49.

Pilgrimage walk to WYD + sleepout



This morning began the mass mobilisation of pilgrims through the streets of Kraków, to Campus Misericordiae.

We began the day with mass with the Emmanuel Commnity, then began the long walk to the vigil site.

Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims walked with us in the hot summer sun – we sang songs of praise & enjoyed the pilgrimage to this historic celebration.

Then we hit the ‘real crowds’!!!

We were packed in like sardines as we passed through two checkpoints.

It took a good three hours to make it to our allocated spot, and we were grateful to arrive!!!

We set up camp & began exploring our new stomping ground.

Around us, young people from all nations & all walks of life!

We made friends with our new ‘neighbours’ & enjoyed a great afternoon.

Priests, nuns & religious were represented well – thousands joining in on the WYD excitement!!

The heat of the day subsided by late afternoon & we settled in for an evening of praise, worship & celebration.

‘Papa Francesco!’ was chanted across the field as the pope arrived & made his way on stage.

He delivered a beautiful address, encouraging the young people to live lives of purpose.

‘We did not come into this world to vegetate’.

He said that many people confuse happiness with comfort, or ‘the couch’.

He went on, ‘too many people live their lives playing video games’, saying we need to ‘get on the field’ & do something about the suffering & hardship that’s going on all around.

He spoke about the importance of building bridges, and the entire crowd then joined hands in a sign of unity.

Pope Francis made mention of social media, saying the reality through a screen is not same as in real life. He encouraged us to ‘really connect’ with the people around us.

And he spurred the crowd on to step out in faith & not give in to fear.

‘Fear paralyses …. It stops us from living full & fruitful lives’.

But a life lived in and with Jesus is one that is full & fulfilling.

We heard testimonies from three young people, including a young Syrian woman who spoke of the suffering & heartbreak in her beloved homeland.

The ‘official’ part of the evening ended with praise & worship – it was a beautiful site!!

The entire crowd raised candles & hands in praise….hundreds of thousands of candles lighting up the field.

We had a fantastic night – & ventured into our sleeping bags around midnight, hoping for a few hours of shut eye before World Youth Day began in the morning.









*** videos & extra pics will be uploaded in the next 24 hours once we get better wifi access!! So check back in then!

WYD week – Friday


We kicked off Friday of WYD week with a wonderful catechesis session with Archbishop Christopher Prowse.

Free time in the afternoon and many of us headed into the city centre, where the WYD spirit was in full force.

Thousands of pilgrims packed into market square, singing & celebrating this fantastic week in the life of the church.

In the early evening, crowds descended on Blonia field for Via Crucis (the Way of the Cross).

This contemporary Way of the Cross was presented in a way that was particularly relevant to the lives of young people today. It was presented not just as the last moments of the life of Jesus, his passion and death, but as the Way of Mercy, by remodelling the stations to the challenges confronting young people today.

The challenges are: respect for life, poverty, hunger, suffering, death , liberation from sin, courage, heroic faith and loneliness to name but a few.

The traditional 14 stations were connected to 14 acts of mercy which touch both body and soul.

It was a very moving experience, especially considering we had walked the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem just a week earlier.

*** videos & extra pics will be uploaded in the next 24 hours once we get better wifi access!! So check back in then!

WYD week – Thursday


We began the day with prayer and praise, before heading off to a catechesis session at a nearby field.

It was an English speaking session, and there were many fellow Aussies there.

His Eminence Cardinal Soane Patita Paini Mafi, Archbishop of Tonga, took part in a Q&A session on the topic of MERCY. He was fantastic! Full of joy and energy, and gave the young pilgrims very practical advice on how to ‘live mercy’ in our everday lives, once we return home from WYD. He encouraged us ‘not to give up’ in the face of criticism, but to ‘be bold’ in living out our Christian faith.

Afterwards, we celebrated mass, with many Aussie priests and Bishops concelebrating.

In the afternoon we headed back to Blonia field (where the opening mass was held) for the Pope’s welcome ceremony!

HUGE crowds gathered for the event – the first chance for most piligrims to catch a glimpse of Pope Francis!

The WYD spirit was palpable  – an estimated 300,000 people attended.

The Papal motorcade wound through the crowds, young people from all over the world cheering for our beloved Pope. We were situated fairly close to the front, and the Pope drove right past where we were standing!

The ceremony was a fantastic celebration of faith! All nations were represented, with famous saints from all regions of the world recognised for the contribution to the life of the church.

Among them, our very own Saint Mary Mackillop!

The Pope addressed the crowd with an inspiring word of encouragement for young people.

“Nothing is more beautiful than seeing the enthusiasm, dedication, zeal and energy with which so many young people live their lives. It is exciting to listen to you share your dreams, your questions, and your impatience with those who say that things cannot change.

He reminded us that ”mercy always has a youthful face … a merciful heart is motivated to move beyond its comfort zone. A merciful heart can go out and meet others; it knows the meaning of tenderness. To say the word MERCY is to speak of opportunity, future, commitment, trust, openness, hospitality, compassion and dreams.”

He urged the crowd to look to Jesus as the way to find true fulfilment in life.

“Jesus can give you true passion for life. He can inspire us not to settle for less, but to give the very best of ourselves.”

His final word – “Here we are Lord! Send us  to share your merciful love. We want to welcome you in our midst during this World Youth Day. We want to affirm that our lives are fulfilled when they are shaped by mercy, for that is the better part, and it will never be taken from us.”

We finished the night with dinner – with a few of our pilgrims taking the opporutnity to head back into the old town centre to continue festivities. The entire city is buzzing with a great spirit of celebration!

Ps a quick word on the food at World Youth Day – it’s AMAZING!! We are given meal tickets which can be traded in at a variety of food vans and shops all over the city. We’re offered an amazing variety of local Polish food, as well as souvlaki, kebabs, churros, along with good ól KFC and Maccas – just to name a few.. Not the ‘normal’ World Youth Day food.

And the polish icecream is YUMMM!

Grace Nicholls played beautifully on a grand piano at a piano/wine bar in the old town centre













WYD week – Wednesday

An extraordinarily blessed day for our Emmanuel pilgrims  – visiting the shrines of two amazing Polish saints – Saint Pope John Paul II, and Saint Faustina!

The shrines are situated very close to each other, in an area of Krakow south of the city centre.

It proved to be a VERY popular day at the shrines – thousands upon thousands descending on this area of Krakow to venerate these two amazing people of God.

We were smushed (best word to explain the situation!) on to trams and buses in both directions – and arrived at the shrine of Saint Pope JPII mid-morning.

The shrine is amazing! A beautiful tribute to the life of this amazing Pope – the man who started World Youth Day!

We had the opportunity to pray briefly in the church, where JPII’s relics are situated. They include a first-class relic of his blood, contained in a glass vial.

Also on display, the blood-stained cassock worn by the pontiff when he was shot on in 1981.

See for more information

Next, we headed to the sanctuary of Divine Mercy! We felt so blessed to be able to visit the Shrine of St Faustina and the Divine Mercy in the Jubilee Year of Mercy!

A bit of background on the Divine Mercy –

“Sister Faustina was a young, uneducated nun in a convent of the Congregation of Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy in Poland during the 1930s. She had only three years of simple education, so hers were the humblest tasks in the convent, usually in the kitchen or garden. However, she received extraordinary revelations — or messages — from our Lord Jesus. Jesus asked Sr. Faustina to record these experiences, which she compiled into notebooks. These notebooks are known today as the Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, and the words contained within are God’s loving message of Divine Mercy.

In 1931, our Lord appeared to St. Faustina in a vision. She saw Jesus clothed in a white garment with His right hand raised in blessing. His left hand was touching His garment in the area of the Heart, from where two large rays came forth, one red and the other pale. She gazed intently at the Lord in silence, her soul filled with awe, but also with great joy. Jesus said to her:

Paint an image according to the pattern you see, with the signature: Jesus, I trust in You. I promise that the soul that will venerate this image will not perish. I also promise victory over [its] enemies already here on earth, especially at the hour of death. I Myself will defend it as My own glory (Diary, 47, 48). I am offering people a vessel with which they are to keep coming for graces to the fountain of mercy. That vessel is this image with the signature: Jesus, I trust in You (327). I desire that this image be venerated, first in your chapel, and [then] throughout the world (47). 

Many different versions of this image have been painted, but our Lord made it clear that the painting itself is not what is important. 

So, no matter which version of the image we prefer, we can be assured that it is a vehicle of God’s grace if it is revered with trust in His mercy.

Sr. Faustina’s Diary sparked a great movement, and a strong and significant focus on the mercy of Christ. Saint John Paul II canonized Sr. Faustina in 2000 making her the “first saint of the new millennium.” Speaking of Sr. Faustina and the importance of the message contained in her Diary, the Pope call her “the great apostle of Divine Mercy in our time.”

We had an amazing time at the Shrine. Unfortunately, due to the massive crowds, we were unable to view the actual original painting of the Divine Mercy, but we were able to spend time in prayer in the Basilica, and celebrated mass in one of the chapels.

A powerful spiritual experience to celebrate the Eucharist, and reflect on the amazing mercy of God, at the Shrine of Divine Mercy, in the jubilee year of mercy!

After lunch, we enjoyed a leisurely afternoon of free time – many of us taking the opportunity to explore the central market square in the old town centre. It was packed with pilgrims from all over the world – all full of energy and joy!

In the evening we headed out to the international gathering of the Emmanuel Community! A fantastic opportunity to meet members of the community from all over the world, and celebrate all that the Lord is doing. For many of the pilgrims, it was a great chance to catchup with old friends from the Emmanuel School of Mission, and other Emmnanuel outreaches.

We had a fantastic night of praise and worship, prayer, adoration and confession, that ended with a Eucharistic procession from the park, through the city streets, to a nearby church. Many pilgrims said it was one of the most moving moments of their entire pilgrimage!


WYD week begins!

Our World Youth Day week in Krakow kicked off with a bang!

We gathered with three thousand other Aussies for the official Australian gathering at Tauron Arena.

Amazing! We ran into so many people we knew from home – it was like a family reunion!

19 bishops from Australia were in attendance, along with 120 priests and 63 religious.

Australia’s ambassador to Poland, Mr Paul Wojciechowski, welcomed us to Krakow – apparently our gathering was the largest ever gathering of Australians in Poland!

Bishop Patrick O’Regan, Bishop of Sale, preached an inspiring sermon on Mercy, describing the Beatitudes as radically counter-cultural.

He encouraged pilgrims to really live the Beatitudes – especially  ‘blessed are the merciful’, our WYD theme scripture, saying that is the way to feed our hungry world.

This was especially profound for us, considering we had just visited the Mount of Beatitudes in the Holy Land last week!

Bishop Mark Edwards of Melbourne then led pilgrims in a sign of Mercy – tracing the cross on our neighbours hand, with the prayer, ‘may God’s mercy and peace be upon you’.

And the final exciting news from the Aussie gathering was the announcement of the Year of Youth, in 2018.

The Catholic Bishops Conference have dedicated the year as one focused on Australia’s young people – marking 10 years since World Youth Day in Sydney!

It will begin with the Australian Catholic Youth Festival in Sydney in December, 2017.

An exciting event for us all to prepare for!

The Aussie gathering ended with a procession of relics of five Polish saints – including our beloved Saint Pope John Paul II and St Faustina.

Afterwards we headed back to AGH university to prepare for the Opening Mass!

This was a wonderful (though rain-soaked) event – and a great way to end our first day in Krakow! It was our first opportunity for the week to gather with hundreds of thousands of young people from around the world – we really sensed in a tangible way the ‘universality’ of the catholic church.

Tomorrow, the Pope arrives!

KRAKOW here we come!

Today we embarked on an epic journey across borders, enroute to Krakow, Poland!

We set off by bus from Prague at 9am. Due to a series of unforeseen events (including, but not limited to, travelling in the wrong direction for the first 30 minutes of our journey), our 8 hour journey ended up taking 15 hours!

As the clock ticked slowly towards midnight, we finally made it to the City of Mercy!

It was a long and tiring journey, but still, we maintained a positive attitude, in the spirit of pilgrimage.

The ‘scenic route’, as we have dubbed it, was absolutely magnificent. We travelled through the picturesque countryside of the Czech republic and Poland (see pics below) – absolutely stunning!

We enjoyed many a bus song (see video below) and in lieu of other lunch options, threw together a random lunch of salami, cheese and bread from Aldi.

In the afternoon, we stopped for mass in the town of Legnica, Poland.

This was a truly blessed experience. It is here that a Eucharist Miracle took place in St Jack’s church on Christmas Day, 2013.

A consecrated host accidentally fell on the floor – it was picked up and placed in a container with water. Soon after, red stains appeared on the host.

A church commission began to monitor the host. In February 2014, a small fragment underwent testing by various research institutes. It was found to contain ‘fragmented parts’ of heart muscle. Tests also determined the tissue to be of human origin, and found that it bore signs of distress.

It was approved as an official ‘Eucharistic Miracle’, and was placed on display for veneration just weeks ago!

We celebrated a beautiful mass at this church – and Fr Josh delivered a great sermon (as per usual).

Back on the road, we continued singing and praising our way to Krakow.

Despite the unexpected delays on our journey, we managed to enjoy ourselves (helped, no doubt by the consumption of way too many lollies/ice cream/Mcdonalds French fries).

We arrived in Krakow just before midnight and were greeted by our amazing Harvest guides. After a short WYD briefing we settled into our rooms at the AGH university, and finally made it to bed in the wee hours of the morning.

Tomorrow, WYD officially begins!


Today, we enjoyed a wonderful, restorative sleep-in, before setting off to explore this beautiful city.

The old city is breathtaking. Home to beautiful buildings & magnificent churches, Prague was the perfect city to relax in before we begin our WYD week in Poland.

We had the day to ourselves, before meeting for mass at the church of the Holy Infant of Prague (see video below).

We shared the celebration with a group of pilgrims from Lebanon.

Afterwards, we enjoyed a walking tour of the old-city.

Tomorrow, an 8 hour journey to Kraków!