The Australian Catholic Youth Festival: vibrancy, vitality and youthful exuberance

With day one of the Australian Catholic Youth Festival done and dusted, you might think the vibrant energy of the 20,000 attendees would begin to quell. You would be mistaken. If anything, day two of the festival was filled with even more joy and jubilation than the previous day.

The day began with the morning Plenary in which Fr Rob Galea blew the doors off Qudos Bank Arena with a powerful and uplifting performance which brought the crowd to their feet and got everyone moving. The crowd was so moved by Father Galea’s performance, the senior clergy in the arena’s front row were not only up and dancing, they were pulling off moves reminiscent of the latest YouTube sensation.

During the morning’s Plenary, the crowd was also treated to a thought-provoking sermon by Emily Wilson, who spoke to the crowd about the role model that Mary provides women. The sermon was followed by a beautifully choreographed dance routine.

The morning Plenary set the stage for the entire day’s events. Everyone left the arena invigorated, with a spring in their step and ready to tackle another big day at the festival. The throngs of impassioned young people moved spiritedly through the various activities and booths set up around the showground.

Speaking with Kiara Conaghan, a student at St Paul’s Catholic College in Booragul, she explained what she loved most about the festival so far. “I love meeting new people and going to all the live music and just listening and learning new ways to express faith and religion in all these diverse ways,” she said.

“A highlight of the event so far, for me, was “Hanging with Hilda”, it was enlightening how she used prayer and faith, it was nice to see how communal and personal it can be.”

The minds of the event attendees were further expanded during an interesting panel discussion related to interfaith dialogues. The panel included Archbishop Christopher Prowse (Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Canberra-Goulburn), Fr Patrick McInerney, Masheed Ansari, and Rabbi Gab Krebs. The focus of the discussion was how various religions co-exist, and aimed to promote tolerance in diversity. The panel also discussed the positive benefits of hearing one another out in order to demystify each religion in order to bring about understanding and compassion.

During the panel discussion, Archbishop Prowse shared an amusing anecdote from his past. He recounted meeting an Imam for the first time and explained how their shared worries and anxieties became the foundation of a strong friendship.

Mansheed Ansari, a lecturer in Islamic studies at Charles Sturt University, spoke about feeling compelled to share her religion in order to breed understanding following the events of 9/11.

“I felt like the world was in a bit of a chaotic space and I felt that I could contribute by building bridges. I felt it was my duty to contribute to the dialogue, not just to explain my faith but to overcome fear and create peace and collaborate and work with other.”

Later in the day, the Pilgrims were treated to another performance by Matt Maher. As Matt performed for the faithful, the crowd began to sway to the music while raising their voices in a spirited chorus to sing along with him.

Following his set, Matt gave witness to the gathered crowd of young people and shared his own personal testimony about trying to fit in as he grew up. Matt spoke about finding a place in the world thanks to God’s love and light. It was the purpose that God had for Matt’s life, and the talent he had imbued him with that became Matt’s ultimate calling in life. It became Matt’s vocation to use his God given talents to share the Lord’s message.

At the end of his testimony, Matt left the audience to ponder their own unique gifts and talents, and to consider how these gifts could be used in servitude of God.

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