At each lunch Bishop Bill outlines some of the matters that he is involved in at that particular time or various initiatives that the diocese is undertaking.
Also at each lunch a guest speaker presents for approximately 20 minutes and then engages with the audience in a Question and Answer forum.
The quality of guest speakers over the three or four years the ACP has been operating has been outstanding and they have covered a wide range of topics. Two in particular that I recall have been Father Frank Brennan SJ, who is well known in the media for his advocacy on a number of social justice issues and similarly Mr Phil Glendenning from the Edmund Rice Centre, again an advocate for Social Justice particularly in the area of Refugees.
The last luncheon for 2016 was held on Thursday and for the first time the list of guest speakers numbered four, all of them students from our Catholic Secondary schools in the diocese.
They had been invited by the coordinator of the ACP, Mr Barry Urwin, to speak on the topic of Accepting a New Reality, the theme adopted for the 2016 luncheons.
The four students chosen were those who had been successful in this year’s Diocesan Secondary Schools Public Speaking Competition and each of them clearly demonstrated why they had been successful in that event.
The four speakers were:
Abbey Bourne Year 8 St Mary’s High School, Gateshead
Summer Harrison Year 9 St Pius X High School, Adamstown
Luke Strong Year 10, St Clare’s High School, Taree
Sarah Ward Year 11, St Clare’s High School, Taree
I must admit that when Barry Urwin asked me about the possibility of having four students speak on this topic, I was rather glad that it was them speaking on it and not me. As it was, I was asked to give an introduction to the guests on what is happening in Catholic Education at this time and I was glad that I was able to speak before our students because following them is always daunting due to the quality of their presentations.
Each of them embraced the topic from a different angle but also included some similar themes, foremost amongst which was the impact of electronic media on young people.
Luke Strong added a different dimension when he spoke of the need to recognise a new reality in the absence of so many young people from our parish life and celebration of the Mass. He went on to encourage the engagement of young people in social justice areas and for the Church to be present to them at that level.
The four speakers certainly impressed their audience and a short Q&A followed with each speaker keen to respond to the questions posed.
I congratulate each of them for the way they presented their position on this topic and for their engagement with the audience.