I have just spent the weekend at St Joseph’s Spirituality and Conference Centre at Kincumber with the members of the Diocesan Council for Ministry with Young People (DCMYP), along with Bishop Bill, Fr Brian Mascord and their chaplain Fr Greg Barker. Br Greg McDonald fms assisted in facilitating our discernment sessions.
We named the sessions or process as follows:
Much of our reflection and conversation centred on being Christ to each other and witnessing to Christ in the world. Each of those on the DCMYP has a deep sense of being called to this particular mission in our church and we are blessed to have them respond to that call. Like most of us the complex question which we pondered is, “How do we invite young people to join us on this faith journey?”
Breaking open the weekend readings with them reminded us that we need to let our light shine by using the special gifts that have been generously bestowed on us. Jesus reminds us that we are the salt of the earth and the light of the world.
I wonder how many of you pondered your own baptism when you were reflecting on the weekend’s gospel. From the light of the Paschal Candle the priest says: “Receive the light of Christ.” If you were baptised as a child, either one of your parents or godparents lit that candle followed by the following words:
Parents and godparents, this light is entrusted to you to be kept burning brightly. This child of yours has been enlightened by Christ. He (she) is to walk always as a child of the light. May he (she) keep the flame of faith alive in his (her) heart. When the Lord comes, may he (she) go out to meet him with all the saints in the heavenly kingdom.
Our young people are attempting to provide opportunities to keep this light burning brightly. They are passionate and committed to this ministry of providing opportunities for faith in action. I thought it would be opportune to provide you with a list of these opportunities:
- 2018 Year of Youth
- Australian Catholic Youth Festival (ACYF)
- World Youth Day (WYD)
- University Chaplaincy
- University of Newcastle Catholic Society
- Pastoral Placement Program
- Pastoral Placement Projects
- Maitland-Newcastle Mission (MnM)
- Pints with a Purpose
- Be Grow Show Retreat
- Praise and Worship
- Diocesan Youth Mass (associated with Bishop’s Awards)
- Seven at Sacred Heart
- Young Christian Students (YCS)
- Support for school retreats
- Family Ministry Co-ordinators
- Parish Youth Initiatives – Life Teen, ACTiv8, Morisset Youth Group
I invite you to give Brooke Robinson a call on 4979 1111 or to email Youth.Ministry@mn.catholic.org.au if you would like to know more about these opportunities, or if you feel called to assist the DCMYP in any of these areas. There is a sense that the harvest is rich but the labourers are few. The reality of being time-poor and stretched took up some time in our discussions. Everyone on the DCMYP works in paid employment and then gives of their time to realise God’s mission in our diocese. Many of them have responsibility for their families, while also being involved in the lives of their parishes.
Certainly it was identified that families are the primary place for evangelisation, followed by the parish. However in the absence of a critical mass of young people in our parishes, this council provides opportunities for young people from around our diocese to get together and have a different experience of Jesus and community.
On 13 January, Pope Francis wrote a letter to young people on the Occasion of the Presentation of the Preparatory Document of the XV Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which will take place in October 2018. The topic will be “Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment”. This document is to be a compass for this synodal journey.
Pope Francis invites the young people to “go”, as Abraham and Sarah did. These are the words he uses:
They are the words of the Father, who invites you to “go”, to set out towards a future which is unknown but one which will surely lead to fulfillment, a future towards which He Himself accompanies you. I invite you to hear God’s voice resounding in your heart through the breath of the Holy Spirit…..
Jesus looks at you and invites you to go with him. Dear young people, have you noticed this look towards you? Have you heard this voice? Have you felt this urge to undertake this journey? I am sure that, despite the noise and confusion seemingly prevalent in the world, this call continues to resonate in the depths of your heart so as to open it to joy in its fullness…. Listen to the cry arising from your inner selves! .....
A better world can be built also as a result of your efforts, your desire to change and your generosity. Do not be afraid to listen to the Spirit who proposes bold choices; do not delay when your conscience asks you to take risks in following the Master. The Church also wishes to listen to your voice, your sensitivities and your faith; even your doubts and criticism. Make your voice heard, let it resonate in communities and let it be heard by your shepherds of souls. St Benedict urged the abbots to consult even the young, before any important decision, because “the Lord often reveals to the younger what is best”. (Rule of St Benedict, III, 3)
Apart from reflecting on the Synod of Bishops’ Preparatory Document – Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment - we looked at the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference document Anointed and Sent – an Australian Vision for Catholic Youth Ministry. This document names three goals and eight focus areas.
Over the weekend we considered the three goals nominated by the Bishops’ Conference for Catholic youth ministry. These goals are:
Goal One - to foster the total personal and spiritual growth of each person
Goal Two - to draw young people into responsible participation in the life and mission of the Catholic faith community
Goal Three - to empower young people to live as disciples of Jesus Christ in today’s world.
We concluded that these three goals could be applicable to every Catholic. The document can be found on the ACBC website. I believe that every Parish Pastoral Council, and every secondary school, along with our other diocesan councils, should be reading and reflecting on its key aspects, for each of us needs to be involved in ministering with young people. We all share in this responsibility, if we are followers of the light and not the darkness.
I would like to finish this message with some words from the Eucharistic Prayer – The Church on the Path of Unity:
Lord, renew your Church in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle
by the light of the Gospel.
Strengthen the bond of unity
between the faithful and the pastors of your people,
together with Francis our Pope and Bill our Bishop,
and the whole Order of Bishops,
that in a world torn by strife
your people may shine forth
as a prophetic sign of unity and concord.
May we find joy and bring joy as we mission in this time and place.