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Deep calling urges Judith-Grace to say ‘yes’ to World Youth Day

By Mary Brazell

Judith-Grace Vella, 22, from Our Lady of the Rosary Parish, Kellyville, will be one of the 170 young people from the Diocese of Parramatta travelling to World Youth Day in Lisbon, Portugal. Image: Supplied


Having waited almost two years for one of the largest gatherings of Catholics in the world, 22-year-old Judith-Grace Vella hopes the upcoming World Youth Day (WYD) will change her life.

Judith-Grace will be one of 170 young people from across Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains travelling to World Youth Day, a week-long Catholic youth festival which celebrates the joy and vibrancy of the universal Church.

Travelling with ‘great friends’ from parish

Growing up Catholic from a Maltese background, Judith-Grace has been a part of the Kellyville parish since Kindergarten.

She has always been deeply involved in parish life – having served as an altar server since 2010 and is one of the parish’s youth leaders.

Journeying throughout France, Spain, Portugal and Italy, Judith-Grace will be able to share the experience with 13 of her fellow young parishioners from Kellyville as one of the largest parish-based groups on the pilgrimage.

“Being able to accompany young people is what I enjoy about youth ministry and how our small impact in their lives can lead to a bigger role in their faith journey.

“We’re not just young people from the parish travelling together, we’re actually great friends.

“Having such a large group from the parish going to WYD will be a ‘game changer’ for the parish. We’re trying to make World Youth Day not just an experience for us young people, but for everyone.

“There is genuine excitement for us to go to WYD, and we hope to bring the fire back to our local Church and be virtues of witness to our community.

“I hope that we will become lifelong friends not just by virtue of being from the same parish and serving in ministry together, but also by going through the experience together.”

Support of parish on WYD a ‘blessing’

With such a large group, Judith-Grace has been ‘floored’ by the generosity the parish has shown her and her fellow pilgrims.

“We’ve been proactive on our social media in introducing the parish to the pilgrims, and they have been glad to be able to give a face to the name.

“We have organised some pilgrimage gifts as a thank you to our parishioners, which will include lighting a candle in Lourdes for all of their prayer intentions and also carrying with us a book of intentions that we will leave at the Basilica of St Francis in Assisi.

“We’re mindful that we’ve been asking the parish to fundraise for us, but we are also making sure that the journey to WYD is for all in the parish, not just the young people.”

‘God is preparing to transform my life’

Coming to the end of her Law-Psychology degree at Macquarie University, and reaching a critical stage in her faith journey, Judith-Grace felt an ‘intimate calling’ to take part in this pilgrimage.

“I have this immense confidence that God is preparing to profoundly transform my life at WYD, and it will be a very important part of my vocational journey.

“I’ve been trying to enter more deeply and consistently into prayer, both as an individual and in community with my fellow pilgrims and discernment has been at the forefront of my prayer.

“I’m not sure where I am being called to as a vocation and in my career. I’ve been wrestling with God caring about what I want. I hope that on WYD, He might tell me what it is that I want to do and even though it is ultimately His call to make, I have a choice in it as well.

“When I read the World Youth Day theme (‘Mary arose and went with haste’), the first thing I hear is ‘urgency’ – God is calling us with urgency and He wants all of us, not just part of us.

“I’m hoping that this pilgrimage will fill me with the confidence to respond to that call as fully and unequivocally as Mary did.

“I’m open to where the Holy Spirit moves me and through the WYD experience, God might also guide this process.”

As the countdown begins towards departure, you can follow along our Diocesan pilgrimage to World Youth Day by signing up to our newsletter to receive the latest pilgrimage news at or visit

Official prayer for World Youth Day 2023

Our Lady of the Visitation,
you who arose and went with haste towards the mountain to meet Elizabeth,
lead us also to meet all those who await us
to deliver them the living Gospel: 
Jesus Christ, your Son and our Lord!

We will go in a hurry, with no distraction or delay,
but with readiness and joy.
We will go peacefully, because those who take Christ take peace,
and welldoing is the best wellbeing.

Our Lady of the Visitation,
with your inspiration, this World Youth Day
will be the mutual celebration of the Christ we take, as You once did.

Make it a time of testimony and sharing,
fraternization, and giving thanks,
each of us looking for the others who always wait.

With you, we will continue on this path of gathering,
so that our world will gather as well,
in fraternity, justice and peace.

Help us,
Our Lady of the Visitation,
to bring Christ to everyone, obeying the Father, in the love of the Spirit!