Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Welcome to Sydney!

It's ten minutes after midnight on Wednesday morning here in beautiful Sydney, Australia. I am dead tired and my feet are really barking at me, but we finally have internet access back and I wanted to get everything caught up. The last two days have been a whirlwind of activity so hold on tight, grab a beverage, and get comfy...the adventures continue.

The last time I was able to write, Alicia and I were doing laundry for the kids while they were finishing up the last of their workshops at the Youth Arise Festival. We discovered some washers and dryers that did not charge so we figured we would take advantage of it. Five hours later we spent some time convincing ourselves that it was still a good idea.

The closing Mass in Brisbane was wonderful. The music was done by Matt Maher and his band. Communion was intense! There really is no other word to describe it. It really moved everyone in the room. After Mass we had our last dinner together in Brisbane and then went to pack our things. The guys were packed in about fifteen minutes. I cannot say the same for the ladies.

We then went to the final event which was a concert composed of three different bands. One of our new favorite bands is a band from India called Rex Band. I referred to them in a previous post. The night concluded with Matt Maher. We have and will see a lot of him this week. The kids got to meet him again and take some more picutres. The festival wrapped up around ten o'clock at night.

Our bus for the airport was due to leave precisely at 3am. Most of the teens decided to stay up instead of take a quick nap on the floor. Somehow I managed to lie face down on a concrete floor and get a 45 minute nap in. We boarded the bus and headed to the airport. The airlines asked us to be there three hours before our 5:55am flight. We arrived at the airport with 100 or so other pilgrims from Arizona only to find the airport virtually deserted. Most of us claimed a piece of floor and went to sleep until we were awakened at 4:30 to begin check-in.

The flight to Sydney was on time and smooth. I had a window seat on the left side of the plane and was able to watch the sun rise over the ocean on the horizon. It was one of the most spectacular sunrises I have ever seen. Every color was visible in the sky. The teens who were seated on the opposite side of the plane got a nice view of the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour (Aussie spelling) Bridge as we made our final approach into the airport. Once at the airport we waited for about an hour for our bus to arrive to take us to the McLaren Hotel in North Sydney.

The hotel we are staying at is really "cute" according to the ladies. Sean and Thomas were most impressed by their shower in their room having shower heads at both ends of the shower. It was quite the carnival for them. The hotel is an old mansion that now has about thirty rooms. Each room is different. Some have a fireplace, some have a terrace, and others have the much talked about shower with two shower heads. Somehow K Kap and I managed to get the smallest room in the joint. Oh well.....the first shall be last...blah...blah...blah...it's what I try to tell myself anyway. The hotel keeper told me that the average price of a home in this neighborhood is 1.3 million. Suffice to say the scenery is older, but nice.

After a shower, we walked down to a row of shops and grabbed a bite to eat. Food is pretty expensive here so when your kids tell you how much they spent don't be too alarmed. After lunch, most of us had a chance to take a much needed nap. Can you call four to five hours of sleep a nap? We woke up around 6PM on Monday night and gathered together for prayer. Our group was one short as Fr. Michael had to go to downtown Sydney in order to register as a priest so that he could concelebrate at the Masses and hear confessions. He stood in line for 4.5 hours. The first shall be last....

We made our way towards the Sydney Opera House. Food was scarce because shops close around here at 5 or 6 PM. As we were walking along the harbor I saw a guy closing up his deli. I was able to make a deal to buy all of his leftover food for $60 bucks. That's right...we fed your fourteen teenagers on $60 bucks. It was truly a miracle from God. After eating, we met Fr. Michael at the steps of the Sydney Opera House. That's right folks....eat your hearts out. We attended a magnificent choral concert at The Sydeney Opera House. Somebody pinch me! Here are a few picks. Anita, we ordered an organ for you like this for the church....delivery may take a while though:

After the concert we hopped on the train and went back to the hotel. All of us crashed and were very grateful for our beds. Wake-up call was set for 7AM as we had a busy day.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

After a nice breakfast in our hotel, we made our way to Wynyard Station in the CBD (central business district) of Sydney. As we alighted (I am really picking up this Aussie talk) the train and walked up the stairs to the street, we were greeted by thousands of fellow pilgrims. There are flags from every country flying high. Everyone is saying "hello" and we respond with an over emphasized Texas twang, "Where ya'll from?" The city of Sydney was electric this morning with excitement. It was awesome. I apologize that I cannot recreate it for you here.

We walked through an area called Martin's place as we headed to St. Mary's Cathedral. We took pictures with several other groups but one of our better pictures was this group picture in front of the fountain. Notice the rainbow!

The cathedral was phenomenal! I will post pics instead of talking. Just note the relics of Blessed Pierre Giorgio. We were able to pray in front of them and a Icon of Our Lady of the Southern Cross as well.

After the cathedral we walked to visit some more....um...secular cathedrals that some in our group worship:

We then walked towards the Opera House only to find that we had to go to Barangaroo across town to get our lunch. Barangaroo was the site of the opening Mass so we headed across town to that. It was quite the walk with the streets shut down and hundreds of pilgrims walking in the streets singing and dancing. Despite the many miles we have walked, the kids remain cheerful and excited about our pilgrimage.

The venue for the opening Mass was pretty nice. The Aussies have done an amazing job organizing it all and everyone is very friendly. We claimed our site for Mass and then got our boxed lunches. The lunch consisted of a meat pie (Jordan's new nickname due to his affinity for them) tangerines, and some cake-like desert. It wasn't much but we were happy to have it provided. Mass was really good including the music. Yes, Anita, I am bringing the worship aid home!

Here are some pics from the Mass. I hope the kids will blog more about their experiences. We had some funny little things happen today that will be fun to share later. We were sitting behind a group from Ireland during Mass and in front of a group from Austria. It was quite the scene! After the Mass we hung around for the welcome concert while we waited for the crowds to clear. Eventually we made our way home and arrived back at the hotel around 10:30PM. Here are some pics from Barangaroo:

Thanks for all the comments. To be honest, we have not yet relayed them all to the teens yet. They are fighting off some homesickness and Fr., Alicia, and I are discussing when would be the best time to share. The kids also were fighting off some cold symptoms that now seem to be related to the sleeping conditions in Brisbane (i.e. lots of people from lots of different places in a small room). They all seem healthy now and are in good spirits. Just know that we love your kids very much and are honored to be here with them. We will bring them home to you soon. Until then, know that you are in all of our prayers and oh yeah....our prayers count more than yours because we are in Sydney! Just kidding....it's almost 1:45AM. Goodnight!


Ralph and Paula Day said...

Tom- thank you so much for being the scribe and doing such a wonderful job of journaling. I feel like I am there with you more than just in spirit. I can tell it is an amazing trip. Go HOLY SPIRIT!!!! Love and prayers to all.

Ralph and Paula Day

ZeldaWisdom said...

Glad to hear you made it safe and sound to Sydney. Your journey and Blog made it on the news (Brazos Valley This Morning) this morning. What an awesome way to share this spiritual journey with all! Emily

Anita Kapchinski said...

This latest blog entry finds me in a hotel room in Corpus. Upon waking, I went straight to the lap top feeling like a kid on Christmas morning. Thanks so much, Tom, for journaling for us - your descriptive and charming writing style allows us to experience WYD vicariously through your amazing gift! Three things jump out: kids homesick - parents are really missing everyone a lot by now, but blog really helps and we know they're in good hands! 2) don't apologize for not describing "electricity" in Sydney - felt it here even as you boarded the plane to travel there!! 3) Tears come quickly to my eyes picturing our pastor standing in line for the privilege of hearing confession and celebrating the Mass - VERY humbling and powerful witness to God's power and grace!!!

Thanks for awesome pics - 2 ?'s: Katie S. always looks like a model in all pics - Holy Spirit shining thru? Tom forget razor or going Franciscan?

My H.S. continue to pour out all grace and blessings upon all WYD pilgroms and our Pope!

sharon reed said...

I've enjoyed the "blog" and feel that I am journeying with you. What a neat and everlasting experience you are having. Blessings, Sharon Reed