Pilgrims spend night under the stars

Sydney, Australia, Jul 20, 2008 / 02:04 am (CNA) .- Over 235,000 young pilgrims camped at Randwick Racecourse last night awaiting the final Mass celebrated this morning. While half of the 500,000 who attended the final Mass traveled into the racecourse via public transport, thousands of pilgrims braved the cold to reserve their space for the Mass, pray before the Blessed Sacrament, receive confession and take part in the night’s festivities.

Armed with tents and sleeping bags, pilgrims such as Jennifer Giddins, from Michigan’s Diocese of Lansing who took a group of 19 pilgrims from various parishes, camped out under the Australian night sky. On her third WYD, Jennifer said the camp out went relatively well.

“It was better compared to the other years. In Toronto, it was wet and in Cologne it was dewy, so it was great.”

She also described her WYD as fantastic. “What I really like is meeting other people knowing that we are connected in the faith,” she said. “I’m a youth minister in the States, so bringing the youth here and having them realize that their not the only ones back at home in the States, who are Catholic.”

To prepare for the night, Jennifer told the pilgrims to “bring all their warm stuff, leave ipods and things at home because they’re going to be more than enough to experience.”

Apart from religious contemplation, other activities included Irish dancing in the walkways between campsites, drumming circles, singing and walking amongst the stream of people travelling all over the site until the early hours of the morning.

Gabriel, 27, from the Dominican Republic, found the night cold saying, “I was waking up every once in a while. At home, it’s constantly 32 degrees (Celsius) and doesn’t change much.”

The temperature dropped in Sydney last night to 1-4 degrees Celsius (33-39 degrees Fahrenheit).