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Australian youth invited to listen to the Holy Spirit as fervour builds for national faith festival

Sea of lights: A sea of lights fills up the auditorium at Australian Catholic Youth Festival 2017. Photo: Giovanni Portelli/ACBC

EXCITEMENT is building for the fourth Australian Catholic Youth Festival to be hosted in Perth later this year, where young Catholics from across the country will gather for three days of faith, friendship and formation.

Perth Archbishop Timothy Costelloe invited all young people to have the courage to say “Yes” to this invitation to ACYF. 

“It will be a powerful experience of faith and discipleship, and an opportunity that will bring much joy and hope to us all,” he said. 

Evangelisation Brisbane youth officer Steven Bird, who has been to every ACYF, said it was like a mini-World Youth Day.

“It’s organised by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference and it’s a national gathering every two to three years,” Mr Bird said.

“What I love about this is the Catholic bishops, they host it as their events, so when the doors open on the first day, they’re all standing there at the door on the first day shaking everyone’s hands as they walk in.

“They’re available all the time to be spoken to.”

The festival, from December 8 to 10, is aimed at students in Year 9 to young adults 30 years of age. 

“Every young person I’ve spoken to has had that mountaintop experience and when they come back from the festival they get involved more and more in the local community,” Mr Bird said.

“It’s amazing to see that.”

Mr Bird said the biggest challenge this year was the location being Perth, so travel costs were expected to be higher than usual.

But he said EB was working with parishes and doing all it could to support youth leaders on the ground.

St Thomas More College assistant principal for religious education John Thomas, who also had been to every ACYF, said he was leading a group of 50 people to this year’s festival.

“We’ll have about 30 kids, nine staff – many of whom are under 30 – and the parish will probably kick in with 10 or 11,” he said.

Surprisingly, given the extra pricing, the group was a little bigger than usual.

But the reason for its size was easy to explain.

“Many of the kids who are going this time are our Year 11s; almost all the Year 11s went as Year 9s two years ago and they said, ‘Yeah, we’re going again’,” Mr Thomas said.

He said there was no other festival like it regularly on offer in Australia.

“I can’t believe that so few people go (from Brisbane),” he said. “This is Ignite (Conference) on steroids, really; Ignite Conference is terrific, but in Sydney there were 19,000 (young people). 

“Where do you get 19,000 in an auditorium who are quiet when the Blessed Sacrament is brought in by the bishops?”

Mr Thomas said it was the richness of the Catholic culture on offer that was one of the real driving forces.

“There’s opportunities for labyrinth walks and meditation, (and) going to Mass in the other rites. 

“I remember in Sydney we took some kids to the Maronite Mass and it was just stunning. 

“It’s to see the richness of the Church, so it’s not something that you see on Sunday or that we see in our school.”

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