Maitland-Newcastle pilgrims join thousands in Sydney for the Australian Catholic Youth Festival

Tens of thousands of young Australian Catholics have spent three days celebrating their faith in Sydney. The Australian Catholic Youth Festival (ACYF) welcomed participants from all over Australia and invited them to concerts, workshops, fun activities and prayer.

On Thursday Maitland-Newcastle was well represented, as Isabella Crebert from St Joseph’s Lochinvar, led two Hail Marys in the rosary, in front of the crowd of 19,000 at the plenary.

There were many workshops to choose from, and Bishops X-Change created an opportunity for young people to speak directly to their bishops about the issues facing society today.

Lyvia Pozywio and Rosa Obeid from St Joseph’s Lochinvar, attended the Bishops X-Change on the topic of same-sex attraction. Rosa said, “It was very passionate, and so interesting to hear people’s different views and experiences.”

Parish Liaison member of the ACYF Steering Committee, Sam Hill, spoke at two Bishops X-Change sessions about her experiences of Vocations and Mental Health. Our own Bishop Bill shared and answered questions from the youth in the X-Change on vocations.

Prioress of Jamberoo Abbey, Sr Hilda Scott, osb was a favourite presenter of many of our pilgrims. Sr Hilda led the 19,000 pilgrims through a process of being silent, listening to some scripture verses, then asking God to speak to them through the verse that stood out. She said, “If you want to know the joy of God, become a person who is familiar with the scriptures. After you have spoken to God, create a time of silence as God speaks to your soul. Do that every day & I promise you will know that you are never alone, and loved by God.”

Sr Hilda also put out a challenge, “Before you leave, find a place alone, give God the green light to love you, & hand over your life to God. Each day, God is going to guide you through everything you do”.

Group Leaders, Shane and Leanne Hyland, were impressed by the workshops their group decided to attend. They participated in “Getting Real: Challenging the Sexualisation of Society.” Leanne said, “It led to great conversations afterwards, and showed maturity, that these young people were capable of dealing with difficult issues. Also, the atmosphere of the festival allowed the youth to be themselves, raise arms and sing, do things they wouldn't usually do. They felt the presence of the Holy Spirit.”

The last day of the festival began with workshops, and then a pilgrimage to the Domain. Maitland-Newcastle pilgrims walked across the Harbour Bridge, through Circular Quay and the Rocks to join the massive crowd gathered for the Closing Mass. Archbishop of Sydney, Anthony Fisher, and most of the Australian bishops concelebrated Mass.

Archbishop Fisher asked the pilgrims, “Have you had fun with friends? Have you learnt a lot? Have you prayed a lot? Have you come closer to Jesus?” All questions were answered with a loud chorus of ‘yes’!

Closing Mass ended with the announcement that in December 2019, ACYF would be held in Perth WA. The night ended with an amazing fireworks display, which served as the perfect ending to an inspiring and joyful festival.

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Brooke Robinson Image
Brooke Robinson

Brooke is Content Officer for the Communications Team in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle