By Robert Hiini
Three months after the largest public event in Australia’s history, over 60 young leaders came together at the Activ8 Post-World Youth Day Conference to learn how to make their next move in ministering to young people.
After leading some of the more than 2500 pilgrims who departed Perth for WYD in Sydney from July 15-20, participants gathered at Chisholm Catholic College between October 10-12 to attend talks and workshops designed to both inspire and instruct their peers.
Conference participants came from schools, youth movements and Catholic parishes throughout metropolitan and regional WA.
The conference continued the theme of the WYD in Sydney, taken from Acts 1:8: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you will be my witnesses.”
Participants were offered workshops in five different streams of training – faith development, leadership development, ministry in the Mass, prayer experiences and social justice and community service.
Administered by the Perth World Youth Day Office, the workshops were facilitated by leaders from the Catholic Youth Network – a body made up of organisations actively involved in ministering to youth in the state.
Apart from Perth WYD Office staff, facilitators included Mario Borg from Acts2Come Bible College, Marie Raheb from the Young Christian Workers, Leonard Ong from the Young Christian Students, Sr Kerry Willison RSM from the Centre for Liturgy, Stephen Gorddard from True Love Waits, Tom Gannon from Notre Dame Univeristy’s chaplaincy and Bronia Karniewicz from the Respect Life Office.
Anita Parker, the Coordinator of the Perth World Youth Day Office, opened the conference by calling to mind her own experience of getting involved at her local parish in music ministry and as a young representative on the parish council.
She spoke enthusiastically of WYD as being an integral part of her own growth in faith, telling participants that WYD had taught her two central truths – that genuine Catholicism involves a lot of joy and that she isn’t alone in being a young disciple of Jesus.
Ms Parker reiterated the questions that Pope Benedict XVI asked WYD pilgrims in his homily at the WYD Mass:
“Are you living your lives in a way that opens up space for the Spirit in the midst of a world that wants to forget God, or even rejects him in the name of a falsely-conceived freedom? How are you using the gifts you have been given, the “power” which the Holy Spirit is even now prepared to release within you? What legacy will you leave to young people yet to come? What difference will you make?”
Conference goers explored the practical side to answering this call in workshops examining the ins and outs of the Mass and music ministry, the best ways to go about attracting and retaining youth leaders as well as helping young people to affect change through service.
Conference goers also had the opportunity to worship together with Archbishop Barry Hickey when he celebrated Mass on the second day of the conference – a part of a range of worship and prayer activities interspersed amongst its talks and workshops.
The conference also provided an opportunity for the Catholic Youth Network to canvass a draft of their “Archdiocesan Youth Vision” amongst the local leaders, submitting it to them for comment.
The local vision initiative was prompted by efforts at a national level to formulate an Australian youth vision – a process that has been underway for the past 18 months – as well as the existence of similar documents published by the US and New Zealand bishops.
The eventual archdiocesan youth vision will be accompanied by an implementation plan detailing the strategies that members of the Catholic Youth Network will use to make the vision a reality.
Conference participants were told that the draft vision document would be updated in December to incorporate feedback in preparation for its eventual launch next January.
As local leaders on the frontline of youth ministry, participants were invited to fill in a questionnaire asking them to identify goals the Archdiocese should pursue over the next 3-20 years.
It wasn’t all business however as conference participants flocked to Burswood Casino on October 11, joining 191 people for the third annual WYD Ball, also staged by the Perth WYD Office and timed to coincide with the Activ8 event.
The next day of the conference began at a leisurely 2pm to allow participants to adjust to the previous night’s proceedings.
The conference was also addressed by Perth Auxiliary Bishop Don Sproxton, who shared his hopes not only for the weekend but also for the future of the Church in the archdiocese.
Bishop Sproxton spoke of his own positive experience of WYD but described it as “only a part of the bigger pilgrimage we are on”.
Despite the relative prosperity of Australia, rates of drug abuse and suicide among youth as well as increasing fear and anxiety in the community indicate an absence of hope and a nation in need of Jesus Christ, Bishop Sproxton said.
Bishop Sproxton said that post-World Youth Day, Chirst will give young Catholic leaders many opportunities to share the Good News they have heard at the week-long WYD event in July.
“He’s going to lead us into situations where we can have an incredible effect on many people in this generation. That then will give you an incredible moment of witnessing to bring them out of darkness.”