Society for the Scientific Study of Religion Annual Meeting, Louisville KY, Oct. 17-19, 2008

Session A-4 "Pilgrims' Progress 2008" World Youth Day in Sydney, Australia: Preliminary findings. [SSSR]

The three papers in this session report preliminary findings from the "Pilgrims' Progress 2008" research project conducted prior to, and during the World Youth Day held in Sydney in July 2008.  Data are drawn from interviews and a pre-WYD internet survey of pilgrims.  A post-WYD survey will take place in the near future.


Pilgrims' hopes and expectations for World Youth Day 2008

Andrew Singleton, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia.

The "Pilgrims' Progress 2008" (PP08) research project explores the experiences of youthful participants in the Catholic "World Youth Day", held in Sydney, July 2008. The first paper in this group of three begins with a description of the aims and methods of the PP08 project, presents a brief demographic profile of the registered WYD08 pilgrims (highlighting those from Australia, USA, Canada, UK and Asia) and describes the characteristics of the pre-WYD08 survey sample. The paper then examines what the pilgrims hoped to experience during WYD and to gain from their participation. Pilgrims' expectations were varied: some were most looking forward to experiencing the more religious aspects of WYD, like the Masses and catechesis sessions, while others were attracted to the "youth event" elements. The paper also considers the factors which influenced pilgrims' hopes and expectations.

World Youth Day 2008: Outcomes for Pilgrims

Michael Mason, Australian Catholic University, Melbourne.

This second paper on World Youth Day Sydney 2008 presents preliminary findings on the pilgrims' spirituality, their experiences at WYD08, and the diverse outcomes for different types of pilgrims.  Over strong Durkheimian undertones, and within the framework of Victor Turner's 'ritual process' theory, a variety of outcomes were hypothesised for Devoted, Involved, Open and Social pilgrims.  This extraordinary occasion generated potent 'collective effervescence' sufficient to give rise to a stronger than expected general effect of revivifying the sacred in the consciousness of the pilgrims, and at least for a time, strengthening the bond of the 'moral community or church'.  Clear evidence of the specifically liminal phenomenon of communitas, as distinct from high group cohesion and solidarity, was observed.  Our hypotheses concerning the more specific outcomes for different categories of pilgrims were generally confirmed.

The social milieu of World Youth Day 2008 and pilgrims' social ethics

Ruth Webber, Australian Catholic University, Melbourne.

This third paper explores two aspects of World Youth Day 2008. Firstly, the social milieu surrounding WYD and the extent to which it could be described as a youth cultural event. Did it have the characteristics of a Sacred Rock concert or a fun day out? If not what was it?  How did Pilgrims see and experience it?  Secondly the paper explores the social ethics of Pilgrims.  It reports on Pilgrims' recent volunteer activity, including regular community service as well as helping people in need.  It explores the extent to which civic orientation and spirituality are related, and seeks to discover whether there have been changes in the way returned pilgrims relate to other people and the wider community.