World Youth Day 2008 - Sydney, Australia

“Receive the Power”  (Acts 1:8)

by Allan Panozza

As night fell at Barangaroo on Friday 18 July, an icy wind blew off Sydney Harbour chilling the crowd of more than 150,000 pilgrims to the bone. Then just before 7.00pm the giant TV screens placed around the site lit up with the question “…Are you ready”? – to which a deafening response rang out “Ye-e-e-es”! Then the Hillsong United Band led by Darlene Zschech began the first song of Praise and worship, setting the scene for an outpouring of joy which quickly warmed both body and soul, as we sang and clapped and danced to the glory of our God -“Shout for joy to Yahweh” (Psalm 33).

What followed during the next three hours was a spiritual journey, led by anointed music and worship from the Hillsong group and then by the Matt Maher Band from USA. The program was ably MC’d by Sam Clear who had just returned that week from an eighteen months walk across the globe to pray for the unity of Christians, his final destination being World Youth Day 2008 in Sydney.

The young pilgrims were treated to a powerful drama performance by the Youth Mission Team, and two gripping testimonies of personal conversion were shared by 25 year old Rhodes Scholar Jo Mascarenas from Sydney, and ex London gangster John Pridmore. Bishop Joe Grech preached a ten minute exhortation to the vast crowd of young people, encouraging them to be open to the action of the Holy Spirit and to love Jesus.

Members of the “Receive The Power LIVE” committee came on stage to pray together with Bishop Joe for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the young people, and after all had renewed their Baptismal promises we prayed in tongues for those assembled. At the same time there were members of various CCR groups positioned among the pilgrims to pray in teams of two for any who wished to have further prayer ministry.

Uppermost in our prayer were the three original intentions which inspired this whole event.

(1) An opportunity for young people to experience a personal encounter with the love of Jesus. (2) To receive the power of the Holy Spirit. (3) To be inspired to witness to the Good News throughout the world. During the time of corporate prayer Fr. Chris Ryan MGL carried the Blessed Sacrament on to the main altar for a powerful time of Adoration, which finally closed the event with a solemn blessing of the crowd.   

As I became one in spirit with that vast crowd of young people, flags from 170 different nations waved in time to the music, I reflected with gratitude to God that this was the culmination of six months of intense preparation by a committed team of people, representative of Catholic Charismatic Renewal in Australia through its various entities and expressions. The concept for “Receive the Power LIVE” had its origin at the 2006 meeting of the National Service Committee in Sydney. Our initial thoughts for CCR to join in celebrations in some way for WYD ’08 were that a group of us might gather near the Opera House and sing some songs and pray in an ad hoc way for those participating in the various events. However, the Holy Spirit clearly had other ideas! What eventuated was a joining together of all streams of CCR including representatives from major Communities in Australia, to form the RTPL Committee. At the invitation of CCR in Sydney the main work was then based at the CCR Centre in Rozelle. We appointed Kristen Toohey from the Youth Mission Teams as a full time Event Manager, and in this task she displayed her considerable talents to oversee the organisational requirements necessary to plan and present what in fact became the major Youth Event in the whole of World Youth Day celebrations.

The extraordinary success of this initiative is due not only to the few people who had the opportunity to stand on the stage in Sydney to pray for a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The success is due also to the many other people who have contributed their time and effort in participating in the event, those who generously contributed funds to allow us to proceed, and in particular for the avalanche of intercessory prayer which has gone up toHeaven from across Australia and New Zealand. On behalf of Catholic Charismatic Renewal I thank all those who were involved in any way, and let us thank the Holy Spirit for empowering us to be used in these different ways to touch the lives of many young people. “…Glory be to Him whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine”. (Eph 3: 20). 

For more information, you can contact the NSC in Australia at centre@ccr.org.au.