THE National Year of Youth has given young Australian Catholics a resounding and much needed voice.
On December 3, 2017, Australia’s bishops identified the liturgical year of 2018 as a year of prayerful discernment about the importance and life-giving presence of young people in the local Church and society.
The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference’s Office for Youth director Malcolm Hart said the year had been a success.
“It’s been an excellent year,” Mr Hart said.
“There’s been a lot of local engagement around the Year of Youth.
“A lot of parishes and local community schools have really looked at ways they can dialogue with young people and draw them into conversations and leadership within the Church.”
Mr Hart expressed admiration for the depth of discussion that had taken place across the country.
“Nearly every week there’s a new conversation happening with young people in different parishes around Australia,” he said.
“The fact that the Plenary Council (2020) is asking the Church what it thinks and where it thinks the Church should go, as well as the international discussion around young people at the general synod that happened in October, has driven the promotion and engagement of young people in Australia as well.
“Wherever the Church turns at the moment it’s talking about young people.
“It’s about partnering with them and learning from them in today’s new world.”
Calling upon the Holy Spirit to open new horizons for spreading joy for young people, the bishops committed to nurturing the spiritual, emotional and physical well-being of young people in the National Year of Youth, while accompanying them on their paths of vocational discernment, community development and personal healing.
Hours, weeks and months were spent honouring that commitment through fervent and intuitive dialogue, as well as active pastoral engagement.
The result is the reconnection and renewal of a new generation of young people in the life of the Church.
One man who is in touch with that new world is Jubilee Parish associate pastor Fr Marty Larsen, who celebrates the monthly Ignite Youth Mass, which regularly attracts more than 1000 school students.
“There’s a lot of good stuff going on in schools,” Fr Larsen said.
“They are becoming our Catholic hubs in a sense – that’s where young people feel comfortable sharing their faith.
“There are a lot of good teachers out there who are actually trying really hard to help young people connect with their spirituality.”
Fr Larsen also praised the silent achievers who worked tirelessly in youth ministry roles.
“Often what goes very unnoticed is the leaders of these youth groups in parishes,” he said.
“There are a lot of leaders whose jobs are so unsung; but with their little groups they’ve done a lot to build up youth ministries in the parish, and they often go unnoticed.
“There are some very active parishes that have good connections to young people, which is awesome.”
An archdiocesan celebration will be held at sunset at Bowen Hills parish on November 24, marking the final weekend of the Year of Youth before the Church moves into Advent.
“We’re not usually an office that hosts events, but because this is the Year of Youth we’re holding an archdiocesan event for young people which is purely about celebrating them,” Evangelisation Brisbane’s Melissa Fenech said.
Ms Fenech said the Church had been revitalised in its role of engagement.
“It’s been a year that’s really empowered a lot of our youth ministries across the archdiocese to try new things,” she said.
“There’s been a renewed energy to reach out to the youth.”