During the Year of Youth declared by the Australian Catholic Bishops, Aurora has been asking local young people what they think, initially those who participated in the Australian Catholic Youth Festival in Sydney in December.
On these pages is a selection of responses ‒ more are welcome. Just contact the editor, E firstname.lastname@example.org or P 4979 1288. Please click here.
A sense of being able to do our part in the Church
I’m Catherine Lerch and I am a student at St Paul’s Catholic College, Booragul. I am also an altar server at St Kevin’s in Cardiff. I enjoy being a young Catholic in Australia as it has given me the opportunity to travel and meet other young people as well as increase my faith. In December I travelled to the Australian Catholic Youth Festival in Sydney. There I met many people from across Australia who shared my faith and I made many friends.
The best part of the ACYF was the atmosphere when we all gathered in the main stadium. The music created a sense of unity while the talks were inspiring. We were able to hear from people with many different opinions and points of view. One of my favourite speakers was the Benedictine, Sister Hilda. She gathered a bunch of people and they sat and drank tea while we learned their stories, which was really cool. One was a teacher from one of the schools in another state. She spoke about how things were when she was younger. It was good to hear about how things could change in just one lifetime.
We also learned about different charities in a building called “The Dome”. We were able to visit various stalls, each of which spoke of a different charity. We learnt about the work of each one and who they helped. We also learned about “Orange Sky” when Lucas and Nic talked in the main stadium. We found out about how they engage the homeless and wash their clothes. I was inspired by their speech because it made me realise that you could help other people by doing simple things like washing clothes. You did not have to do something on a large scale to make a difference in people’s lives. They shared how their charity has now spread up and down the east coast.
Shaun was our group leader and later I found out that he works with my Dad. When we walked back after the last Mass, there was a homeless person sitting on the side of the road. While everyone was going past, Shaun stopped and spoke to him, which I thought was touching. I found Shaun funny, even when there were problems between the people he was caring for. He was always smiling and knew how to handle tense situations. I always felt as though he had our back.
One of the people I met was Ailis. She had been going to ACYF and knew many of the participants. One day, on the train, it was early and everyone was tired. Ailis started a singalong, a catchy song that we had heard at the main stadium. Everyone in the carriage sang along, including my friends and myself though we were not the best singers. It was fabulous because we were having a great time even though we felt so exhausted.
The main thing I would like to say to the bishops of Australia is that the ACYF was extremely effective as it gave us a chance to speak up about what is going on in the Church. It gave everyone a sense of being able to do our part in the Church. This is probably the main thing I took away from the festival. I would also like to thank the bishops for giving us this wonderful opportunity to participate in an event which helped strengthen my faith and sense of belonging to the Church.
Catherine Lerch is a Year 12 student at St Paul’s Catholic College, Booragul.
Still a deep love and respect
The young people of today are symbols of the modern world, and as young people in the Catholic Church, we become symbols of the importance and relevance of faith as we face the challenges this modern world brings us. Young people are not afraid to ask the tough questions, and are not afraid to express themselves openly and vibrantly. This, I believe, has allowed us to discover a whole new dimension of religious expression. We now have social media as a church, concert liturgies, but at the heart, there is still a deep love and respect for the traditional values and rituals of the Catholic Church.
Kiara Conaghan is a Year 12 student at St Paul’s Catholic College, Booragul.
Something bigger than themselves
Being a young person in today’s church provides challenges. Young people are trying to find out who they are in the world we live in. When the media portrays the Catholic Church in a negative way young people become lost on their journey. Unfortunately, in today’s society our youth are experiencing negative backlash for wanting to believe in something bigger than themselves.
Those participants who were blessed to have been given the opportunity to experience the Catholic Youth Festival 2017 in Sydney were exposed to something bigger than themselves. They were invited to relate in a practical and communal way to our always loving God. The young people recognised that they are not the only ones in the world who follow the Catholic faith and church. Attending the daily seminars and participating in prayer reinforced just how meaningful and important our faith is today.
Young people are the future of our Catholic Church. They need to be the focus in the years to come. How are we promoting the faith of the young people of Australia? Young people can sometimes fail to connect the Gospels with life experiences.
How do we make the ‘one off’ experiences such as the Youth Festival impact on our young people so that they respond with commitment to participation at Mass and regular prayer?
How do we support the young in our church?
Stephanie Trunk is a teacher at St Catherine’s Catholic College, Singleton and was a group leader at ACYF Sydney in December.