RENEWAL was the hope and lived experience of an estimated 1500 people of all ages from September 26-29 at the New Again-themed Ignite Youth Conference in Brisbane archdiocese.
Inspired by the Book of Revelations scripture of, “Behold, I am making all things new” (21:5), Ignite Youth, an arm of Emmanuel Community, provided the platform for four dynamic days of sacraments, worship, prayer, contemplation and dialogue, where God powerfully and tangibly met and renewed His Church and people.
Ignite Youth director Kym Keady described the conference as “awesome and seamless”, a testament to the 16 previous years of perfecting “the formula” with an undeniably committed team of volunteers and generous supporters.
The conference powerhouse described two personal highlights, one that had her “heart racing”.
Linking to the theme, she took to the stage for the first time, asking for interest in sponsorship for Impact Uganda, having travelled there earlier this year with husband Patrick and a team of others.
“The response, at the conference, to sponsoring children in Africa took my breath away,” Mrs Keady said.
“I was so nervous taking out four cards of children thinking, ‘What if I end up just standing there’ (with no response).
“As the video was playing my heart was beating so fast.
“(And) then I didn’t even get through the stories (of the children) before someone said, ‘Yes, pick me’ … (and) it wasn’t people taking cards and not following through, they all did.”
Mrs Keady said 30 children were sponsored through the conference opportunity and she was prompted to “ring Uganda for more”.
“I called Uganda and said, ‘I need more children’ and the response was, ‘Praise God’,” she said.
Emmanuel Community supports Holy Trinity Community, Masaka, Uganda, now with “a waiting list of sponsors”.
Another highlight for Mrs Keady’s was returning home to the western suburbs of Brisbane and hearing the newness of life in her 17-year-old son’s friend.
“(The friend) didn’t know, before conference, what to believe about God and if He is real,” Mrs Keady said.
“I asked him, ‘What do you believe now?’ and he said, ‘I now believe’.
“I had this moment of, ‘I would have run the whole conference just for you’.”
Significantly-sized local and interstate youth groups were present from parishes such as South Brisbane and Acacia Ridge, and the dioceses of Lismore and Melbourne.
National Evangelisation Teams supported the high school and young adult demographics in their modern and relevant way, while primary schoolers and other youngsters were also catered for and involved at rallies and other times of prayer.
Dozens of workshop presenters gave of their time, talents and faith to inspire all present while keynote presenters engaged the broader audience with renewed vigour.
The traditional market-like stalls, kept alive by various priests, seminarians, religious, ministries and other volunteers gave colour to the conference environment.
The first night’s keynote speaker Justine Combo asked participants to answer “the wildly important question of who God is”.
“The thing is, your answer will change the way you live, where you go, will change how you see yourself and how you love others,” she said.
“Once you have an experience of seeing God in your every day, you can’t stop seeing God all the time.
“We have to be open to let God into our lives in a new way.”
The following day, Fr Dan McCaughan from Sydney spoke of his joy at presenting a keynote address in Brisbane and his home archdiocese the following week.
“Today we are asked to do something to prepare ourselves to consider where we want to be at the end of this conference,” he said to participants on September 27.
Conscious of the many opportunities for young people to engage in dynamic worship at conference, Fr McCaughan encouraged all to “find time to be quiet” and know they are loved by God.
“Getting the balance between the noise and the silence, is important, they go hand in hand,” he said.
“What we hope you begin to discover is that your identity does not rest in how you look, what you’re good at or the things you may like.
“Your identity rests in the fact that you are a son or daughter of God and that’s a relationship that can be never broken.
“God’s love is a relentless love, a pursuing love that goes after us.”
At the conference’s opening Mass on the Feast of St Vincent de Paul, Brisbane archdiocese’s vicar general Monsignor Peter Meneely welcomed all visiting and local priests and religious and particularly the youth.
He reiterated the question of the identity of God in the lives of those present.
“(It was) the toughest question that Jesus asked his followers,” Msgr Meneely said.
Citing the legacy of St Vincent de Paul the pontificate of St John Paul II, Msgr Meneely said “we can’t solve problems on our own”, pointing young people to the constancy of God’s love and all the holy examples in the communion of saints.
Musician and author from Sandhurst diocese Fr Rob Galea led Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament on September 27 while sharing with two others in a heart-to-heart session with Mrs Keady the following day.
An opportunity to receive prayer is the customary Saturday evening of the conference with young people thirsty to be healed by God and continuing the prayerful atmosphere well beyond the scheduled time frame.
The closing Mass, last Sunday, gathered and welcomed more faith-filled members of the archdiocese and was celebrated by Missionary of God’s Love Father Chris Eaton.
In the days following, the Ignite Youth team and dozens of other supporters repacked their bags to repeat the experience in Sydney archdiocese from October 3-6.
Of the new experience of Ignite Conference in Sydney, among 800 registered participants, Mrs Keady used the analogy of “going fishing” with her “team”.
“We put out our nets into the deep waters of Ignite,” she said.
“We know the fish and the bait but we are going into new, deep waters.”
At the time of printing, welcomers at Ignite Conference Sydney, to be held at Freeman College, Bonnyrigg Heights, were preparing to open the doors.
“It’s new and we need to learn how to fish there. It’s unknown but I know we can,” Mrs Keady said. “I have confidence in the team and the formula, we’re in a rhythm.”