By Robin Gomes
A 3-day festival of Catholic youth of Australia kicked off on Sunday in Perth, challenging the young people to listen to the Holy Spirit and “go out and rebuild” God’s Church.
The ACYF is a national Church event that aims to provide young people with opportunities to deepen their relationship with Jesus, be empowered to be His disciples in the world today and encounter and celebrate the vitality of the Church in Australia.
Some 5500 young people from across Australia gathered at the Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre, for the opening of the 4th ACYF on Sunday, that featured a Welcome to Country, high-tempo music, inspirational speakers and moments of prayer.
Rebuild the Church
The host, Salesian Archbishop Timothy Costelloe of Perth, welcomed the young pilgrims along with their hopes and dreams, their doubts and fears, as well as their hesitations and enthusiasms.
“God is real. Christ is alive. The Church of which you are a part is yearning to help you and to hear you, to teach you and to learn from you, to challenge you and to be challenged by you," the archbishop said in his opening remarks, based on Christ’s mandate to St Francis of Assisi received 800 years ago.
He combined God’s mandate to St Francis’ – “Go and rebuild my Church, which is falling into ruin” – with Pope Francis’ comments at World Youth Day 2016 in Poland.
Archbishop Costelloe challenged young people: “Get up off your couches, go out and help rebuild my Church. Help it to set out on new and uncharted pathways. Help stop the Church, my Church, from falling into ruin.”
Fr Rob Galea, a priest of the Sandhurst Diocese and a renowned singer-songwriter, used the Festival’s opening session to invite delegates to be open to the voice of God in their lives.
Listen to the Spirit
In the evening, the young people heard humorous and faith-filled insights from Missionary of God’s Love Sisters Therese Mills and Judy Bowe, who recently appeared on the television show “The Amazing Race”.
Sr Judy said when someone suggested the idea to go on the show, they regarded it as God-given and they needed to listen to the Holy Spirit. That allowed them to speak with their fellow contestants, crew and the audience about their vocation and how God can work in people’s lives.
“If you know that you’re listening to the Holy Spirit, you can do anything with great courage that it will go well,” Sr Judy said.
Being the “now” of God
Sebastian Duhau and Holly Roberts, who have each represented young Australian Catholics at the Vatican, told their peers that they should take up Pope Francis’ challenge to be “protagonists of change” and “the now of God”.
They explained that the Plenary Council 2020 allows people of all ages in Australia to be both of those things.
Day one of the Australian Catholic Youth Festival ended with a meditative form of prayer in the style of the Taizé ecumenical community of France, followed by a musical performance by Gen Bryant, the Melbourne-based singer-songwriter. (Source: ACBC Office for Youth)