Bishop Anthony Fisher of Parramatta, Australia, led a group of 250 pilgrims from his diocese to World Youth Day in Rio in a journey that included a week of outreach in the shantytowns of Lima in Peru.
Bishop Fisher is a World Youth Day expert, as he was the Coordinator of World Youth Day 2008 in Sydney.
A bioethicist and philosopher, the bishop was the foundation director of the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and the Family in Melbourne, Australia, from 2000-2003.
He is an ordinary Member of the Pontifical Academy for Life and his most recent book is Catholic Bioethics for a New Millennium (Cambridge University Press).
In the lead-up to World Youth Day in Rio, Bishop Fisher and his young pilgrims journeyed to Lima where they spent a week learning about and working with the Church’s overseas aid agency, Caritas Peru, in schools and homes of the poor.
The Diocese of Parramatta and Australian benefactors, in association with Caritas Peru, funded the building of 10 ‘Houses of Hope’ in the El Agustino favela, which the pilgrims painted and finished.
“These homes have been allocated to needy families and we met each new householder couple (or single mother) and their several children,” Bishop Anthony said. “Though a two-room house seems small to us, it is a palace compared to what many of them have been used to.”
Each day began with singing Morning Prayer at 6.30 am in the chapel of the Cardinal Cushing Centre, the old seminary in which the pilgrims were staying. The day finished at 10 pm by singing Night Prayer with Eucharistic Adoration and Confessions.
Bishop Fisher said the young pilgrims were very prayerful and learned their way around the intricacies of a simplified Divine Office.
The bishop’s report of the Lima experience included this: “The [young people] are very devout at our daily Masses and sing beautifully. I preach at every third Mass and our excellent priest chaplains take turns preaching at the others.
“On the long bus trips the rosary is recited, there is question time with the chaplain (or bishop) and some really good questions from the pilgrims or comments on the day past. Each night they meet in small groups to reflect on what the day has meant for them and these have been very moving.
“We had Mass with Cardinal Cipriani, the Archbishop of Lima, his auxiliary bishops, the priests and Caritas people with whom we’ve worked, and some young people from Lima.”
Around the city of Lima, the pilgrims helped finish a church, taught classes in infant, primary and secondary schools, painted schools and an old people’s home.
“Our young people have found the poverty confronting and the projects challenging but have thrown themselves into them with real enthusiasm and generosity,” Bishop Fisher said.
“They are gentle and loving with the little ones. I’ve been impressed by their maturity and humility as well. They are clearly learning a lot, not just about this very different world but about themselves and their God.”
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On the Net:
Read Bishop Anthony Fisher’s WYD blog, homilies and catechesis at: http://www.parra.catholic.org.au/bishop-of-parramatta/most-rev-anthony-fisher-op/wyd-rio-2013.aspx
Highlights and photos from the Diocese of Parramatta’s WYD pilgrimage at: www.parrawyd.org
The Archdiocese of Lima has recorded some special moments from the Parramatta pilgrims’ mission work in Peru.