Out of the box thinking raises funds and builds community at Blacktown
By Mary Brazell
There’s a lot involved in preparing to travel to the other side of the world, but no means the least of it, raising the funds to make it a reality.
For Mary, Queen of the Family Parish, Blacktown, fundraising for the 10 young parishioners travelling to World Youth Day in Lisbon, Portugal, has brought the community together.
“I’ve really seen a new closeness develop among the community through our fundraising efforts,” first-time pilgrim Cryste Degollacion, and member of the fundraising team, explained to Catholic Outlook.
“Our community has been showing up intentionally to build that sense of community back up after COVID.
“Through our fundraising efforts, we’ve seen so many people show up to support us,” she said. “They’re talking more amongst each other and rebuilding relationships.”
Thinking outside of the box takes parish to the movies
Alongside the traditional BBQs and cake stalls, the young pilgrims organised events which would involve the whole parish, such as bingo nights, trivia nights and screenings of Christian-themed movies.
“Our youth group has always been inspired to do fundraisers that are outside of the box,” Cryste said, commenting how their events get parishioners together beyond the church setting.
“Everyone is in the moment, sharing the experience and taking it back home with them and sharing with their families and other parishioners.”
The parish youth have organised private screenings of Christian-themed movies such as Father Stu and His Only Son, knowing that while this was a need rarely recognised by commercial cinemas, their parishioners would love it.
“Watching a Christian-themed movie together was a big hit with the parishioners,” said Cryste, explaining that over 100 people attended the screening of His Only Son.
“We wouldn’t have been able to raise so much money without the encouragement of our Parish Priest Fr Regie Lavilla MSP, who has been incredibly supportive of our fundraising events and helping us spiritually prepare for the pilgrimage.”
Pilgrimage prayers a blessing as much as money
With $20,000 banked towards the pilgrimage costs, the parishioners of Blacktown have also provided much-welcomed spiritual support.
“Early on, we set up a prayer request form as a way for our pilgrims to give back,” said Cryste. “We wanted to create that space where parishioners can submit their prayers and intentions they want us to bring to World Youth Day.
“On the first day we launched the link, we had 15 responses. It showed that there were so many parishioners who were supporting us with their prayers but who also wanted us to pray for them.”
WYD pilgrims to foster revival of faith
Parish youth minister Blake Bano – who has been working alongside the pilgrims in their fundraising efforts – described a joy in the parish from the enthusiasm and dedication of the pilgrims.
“This is a rather exciting time for our parish pilgrims, and despite their own commitments, our pilgrims have been at all of our Sunday Masses, introducing themselves to the parishioners as well as the various fundraising initiatives,” he explained.
“Since announcing that the parish was sending 10 pilgrims from Blacktown, there has been such great joy from all the parishioners who really see this as the Church supporting the ambitions of young people who are active and bring the Church alive.
“Many parishioners see their youthfulness and are excited for them to not only experience Christ at World Youth Day, but to foster a revival of the faith, grounded in the Sacraments, not only in Blacktown, but beyond.
“As a pilgrim myself back at World Youth Day Panama in 2019, it moves me to see how much support and love these young people have from the people of Blacktown.
“I know that regardless of their spiritual journey, all of our pilgrims will come home filled with the Holy Spirit, inspiring the next generations to continue in their footsteps of building Christ’s Kingdom.”
Follow the pilgrimage of the 170 World Youth Day pilgrims from across Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains from home! Sign up to receive videos, photos and stories from the pilgrimage delivered to your inbox here: catholicoutlook.info/WYD23News or visit parrawyd.org.