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Catholic Collective takes ‘risk’ in evangelising young people

Diocesan youth office

Leading the way: Catholic Collective is a platform that seeks to connect youth initiatives with young people trying to find their place in the world and the Catholic Church.

TERESA McGrath and Zach Woodward, from Brisbane archdiocese’s Youth Evangelisation Office, are familiar faces, but they asked not to have their photo taken for this story.

The seemingly odd request was not out of a phobia, but at the core of their new offering, the Catholic Collective.

Launched at the Powerhouse of Leaders on May 9, the Catholic Collective is a platform that seeks to connect youth initiatives with young people trying to find their place in the world and the Catholic Church.

It replaces the former Catholic Youth Ministry Brisbane brand and will be the prime project from the Youth Evangelisation Office.

Unlike other projects run by diocesan youth offices around Australia, the Catholic Collective won’t run specific events for young people.

“We don’t need another youth group from our office,” Teresa said.  

Instead, what Brisbane needs is a platform that can connect young people at schools, universities and parishes with all of the archdiocese’s youth initiatives.

That’s more than 80 within a six-hour drive between Hervey Bay and Coolangatta being exposed to thousands of young souls.

“Every person’s needs and what attracts them to a group or event is very different,” Teresa said. 

“For some people the geographical location is massive, for some it might be a real heart for advocacy and for social justice. 

“We want to make sure we’re covering all bases.”

In 2014, Teresa began to consult with Brisbane’s Catholic youth initiatives to develop a proposal for youth ministry between 2015 and 2017.

She asked leaders and co-ordinators what they needed from an archdiocesan office.

After 12 months of consulting, youth leaders and co-ordinators were telling Teresa they couldn’t evangelise on their own and were still unsure about what was offered in the archdiocese.

Since the initial consultation, the Youth Evangelisation Office has grown to house three staff members, each doing their best to support youth leaders on the ground.

“I think we wanted to give all of the youth initiatives the best shot that we could for them to reach young people; I just don’t think we have over the last two years been able to do that,” Teresa said.

The Catholic Collective is their effort to support the 80-plus youth initiatives available to young people in Brisbane archdiocese.

“It’s a bit risky,” Teresa said of the new concept.

“It may not work but I think if we don’t try something new you never move out of the same space you’re existing in.”

The Catholic Collective will initially use the power of social media to advertise possible events to young people, and move towards having a physical presence at events and schools.

Teresa hopes the Catholic Collective will also take off among “your average parishioner”.

“I think at the end of the day when it comes to youth ministry, it really does come down to a personal invitation,” she said.

“And so I think whilst we can (personally invite) ‘x’ amount of people that we meet, if we can then provide information in an easy-to-understand platform, it’s easy for your average parishioner to jump online and talk with a young person about ways they can connect (with the Church). 

“I guess it’s trying to equip, not us, not just the youth leaders, but any Catholic to be able to connect the young people they know with a group that might be right for them.”

It’s this combined effort to evangelise that has motivated the Youth Evangelisation Office to launch the Catholic Collective.

“As it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a whole archdiocese to raise up the future leaders of the Church,” Teresa said.

“When you look at the youth leaders in the Church today, they haven’t just been impacted by a single youth initiative.

“You can see how they were connected possibly with a parish at one point, then a social justice group and then went to an event put on by another group. 

“There’s a sense of a greater story behind each individual.”

The project also means Zach and Teresa, who until now have been the face of the Youth Evangelisation Office, will step into the background so the leaders on the ground can step up.

“Our vision statement is connecting high-schoolers and young adults with the Archdiocese of Brisbane,” Zach said.

“For this office to empower everyone else is a much more efficient way, we see, just with the feedback that Teresa got in the report a few years ago.”

Teresa also said it was not the youth office’s place to evangelise young people.

“We’re the back-up, we’re the rear guard that are encouraging and supporting everything they need so they can be freed up to do the important stuff which is the relationships with young people,” she said.

By Emilie Ng

Written by: Emilie Ng

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