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Young people living in Australia are telling Pope Francis what they want from the Church

Indian student in Australia

Young voice: Indian student Dean Monteiro is a Catholic living in Australia. Photo: Emilie Ng.

INTERNATIONAL student Dean Monteiro has been in Australia for three months but he’s about to tell the Bishops of his new home what he thinks about the Catholic Church.

Mr Monteiro is a born-and-bred Catholic from Mumbai, India who moved to Australia in February to study geology at the University of Queensland.

His move to Australia has coincided with the rollout of a national online survey designed to assist next year’s Synod of Bishops on Youth, Faith and Vocational Discernment, led by Pope Francis.

The survey, which was launched on May 24, is open to young people living in Australian between the ages of 16 and 29, including atheists, agnostics or lapsed Catholics.

Answers revealed from the survey will be collated in each Australian diocese and sent as feedback to the Vatican in preparation for the Synod in October 2018.

Thousands of Australians have already taken the survey, eager to give the Bishops their understanding of what it means to be Catholic.

For Mr Monteiro, the Catholic faith is an important dimension in his life.

“I wouldn’t trade my religion for anything in the world,” he said.

But there have been times where living the Catholic faith hasn’t been easy for the geology student.

There were times when he doubted the existence of God because of his scientific studies.

“Geology is essentially how the earth was formed, and that clashes with religion,” Mr Monteiro said.

During those times of doubt, a friendship with a Catholic priest helped him navigate the truth.

“I think there are a lot of Catholics who really want to be part of the church but are confused, like I was,” Mr Monteiro said.

“That’s where the elders and priests play an important role.

“I was struggling with my faith, and just talking to one priest and gaining his idea and perspective on religion and on life, truly helped me.”

With the release of the survey designed to hear young voices, Mr Monteiro will tell Pope Francis to make it more possible for young people to seek guidance from clergy and older Catholics.

He also wants Pope Francis to put more emphasis on music in the Mass.

“Back in India, the thing I used to enjoy most about the Mass was the music,” Mr Monteiro said.

“If it wasn’t for the music, I probably wouldn’t have grown so much in the faith.

“Every hymn that is written has deep meaning to it and it is literally praising God and praising Jesus for that matter.

“Music is something that speaks to young people the most.”

On the other side of Australia, Adelaide Catholic Josh Sweaney believed the Catholic Bishops already had relevant data to find out where young Catholics gather.

He said in his experience large numbers of young people were being drawn to traditional communities, like his parish at Church of the Holy Name.

“The Bishops only need to look at the census data in the dioceses to see unprecedented levels of young people gathering in traditional communities,” Mr Sweaney said.

“I think the Bishops need to look at where young people are already and what Church practices they are already engaged in.”

Mr Sweaney said one group that was consistently drawing young people was the Australian Catholic Students Association, which will hold their annual conference in Brisbane this July.

He said many young people who attended the conference were drawn to ancient practices.

“I think young people are really looking for a deeper connection with liturgical practices like the Mass, adoration, pro-life rallies, that show the beauty of the Catholic faith in tangible way, rather than just talks and worships,” Mr Sweaney said.

Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge sent a notification about the survey to parishes in the archdiocese earlier this month, asking them to ensure all young people have a chance to participate.

“This is a remarkable opportunity for the voices of young people to be heard by the Church,” he said.

Archbishop Coleridge has appointed Youth Evangelisation Office youth project consultant Teresa McGrath to oversee the Brisbane participation in the survey.

Mrs McGrath will collate the answers and deliver them to Australian Catholic Bishops’ Commission for Family, Youth and Life.

Young people can participate in the Australian Catholic Bishops’ survey until midnight on Sunday, July 2.

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