By Emilie Ng
ONE Brisbane seminarian has helped Redcliffe parish’s young people go from strangers to “best friends” in less than a year.
High school students Sophie Coulon, Nat Chipa and Will Grounds have all grown up in Holy Cross parish, but never had any incentives to talk or socialise together until meeting seminarian Dominik Orih.
The 29-year-old, who is on a 12-month placement at the parish, felt called to give young parishioners, like Sophie, Nat and Will, a place to belong.
“When I came to this parish, I saw lots of young people, but they didn’t look like they were connected to each other,” Mr Orih said.
“I thought about how could we bring all these young people together to form a group, somewhere they can feel safe and be connected to each other?”
After six months of planning with parish priest Fr John Conway and young parishioners, Mr Orih launched his solution last month, Connect Youth.
For youth in the parish, Connect Youth has helped deepen their faith and friendships.
“We are all part of the parish but didn’t really know each other, even though we’ve been here since forever,” Sophie said.
“It’s been really good to start something we can all connect with.”
Year 11 student Will said the youth group helped him tackle his doubts about God’s existence.
“I really like this group and this Church because I’ve gone through some tough times, times when I didn’t think God was real or was there at all,” he said.
“But being part of this group has helped me realise that He is there.”
Mr Orih said it “should worry” Catholics when young people say “they don’t need the Church”.
“Every child needs to belong to a group, and if they don’t find something cool for them, they will look elsewhere,” he said.
He said only in the Catholic Church could young people find happiness.
“My young people go home so happy, and they send me messages and emails saying this experience really changed their life,” he said.
Fr Conway said Connect Youth was not only important for connecting youth to each other but to “connect the young people to our community”.
He said “the older generations” needed to be more engaged with young people, and hoped Connect Youth would encourage this type of engagement.
“Maybe they don’t need to come to us – they are there, so how do we welcome them?” he said.