The request to Australian parishes by the Provincial of the Salesians in East Timor and Indonesia, Fr Andres Calleja, to sponsor the attendance of young East Timorese at World Youth Day 2008 in Sydney, to be held in the presence of Benedict XVI, gives Australians a unique opportunity to help the young people of this overwhelmingly Catholic country.
Fr Calleja pointed out that in East Timor, even professional people such as teachers earn little more than $100 a month, and with this, a person may need to support a family. To find at least $2,000 to cover a return air fare from East Timor to Australia and other costs is, he said, "an impossible dream". But if Australian parishioners were to band together, the impossible becomes achievable.
If parishes can raise this amount of money, AD2000 will be delighted to assist them (via the Salesians) to link up with suitable young people in East Timor, ensuring, for example, that those chosen can speak reasonable English and are likely to achieve maximum benefit from their visit. If possible, we believe these young people should also spend at least a few days in the parishes which sponsor their visit to Australia.
Some years ago, Archbishop Charles Chaput, who hosted World Youth Day in Denver, Colorado, made the point that the event was a catalyst for a large number of vocations. It is to be hoped that a similarly large number of young Australians will respond to the challenge of World Youth Day by considering seriously a vocation to the priesthood or religious life.
World Youth Day could have an equally beneficial impact on the Church in East Timor. Additionally, it would show the East Timorese, in a very practical way, that Australians want a close relationship with them, based not just on friendship, but also on shared beliefs and values.
Peter Westmore is Publisher of AD2000.