Her family “attended Mass pretty much every Sunday” but during the high school years Sarah’s faith was challenged.
“My peers would look at me funny when I said I went to Mass every weekend with my family,” she said.
Sarah went to a Catholic school, but found that many of the other students “didn’t understand the concept of ‘Church’ and how it was relevant in our present-day society”.
“So I stopped telling people of my religious affiliations and that hour on Sunday morning was really the only time I ever thought about faith.
“I kept going to Mass with a sense of duty and with a burdened conscience that had been formed by years of being told that Church was important.”
World Youth Day in Sydney in 2008 turned that thinking around.
“I had just started my primary education degree at university when I had the unexpected opportunity to join with my younger sister’s school group (for WYD08),” Sarah said.
“It’s safe to say I had never experienced anything like the magnitude, excitement and thrills of World Youth Day. “Apart from being away from home, the cultural experience and meeting so many different people and hearing their stories was the most amazing phenomenon.
“What struck me the most was that it was possible to have a faith experience besides Mass – that you could experience faith in so many different and colourful ways.”
Sarah said the experience “stirred something deep within” her heart.
“WYD08 was the catalyst which started me on my journey of personal discovery,” she said.
“(And) when I returned home I became more aware of my surroundings and what was happening in the world around me.
“I found myself paying more attention at Mass and noticing when events for youth were advertised.”
Those stirrings prompted her attendance at the Emmanuel Youth Outreach conference Ignite in 2009.
“It was there, while innocently wandering through the vocations stalls, that I was reluctantly persuaded to take an application form for (the peer-to-peer youth organisation) NET Ministries,” she said.
“I’d seen NET in action before and was sure that that was something I would never do or be interested in.”
Again, God’s Holy Spirit stirred Sarah’s heart.
“A couple of months later, as my second year of uni was coming to an end, I started to feel restless with my life,” she said.
“I’d had enough of studying and felt like I needed to do something different and exciting with my life.
“I filled in the NET application form and sent it through and within three or four weeks I had an interview and was accepted for the group of 2010.”
Sarah then raised funds to help with the outreach, deferred university studies, quit her job and packed her bags to be part of NET Port Macquarie, on the Mid North Coast of NSW.
She spent two years there serving the Church with NET. “My time with NET was filled to the brim with life-changing experience and moments, highs and lows, that will forever linger in my memory,” she said.
“These times have made me the disciple I am today and I am forever grateful to the people who donated to my sponsorship, prayed for me and endlessly supported me, especially my family.”
Sarah has many plans underway in the parish and hopes for “a developed, self-sustainable, vibrant and thriving community of young people (who) join in with other parishioners in bringing life into the Church”.
She is hoping and praying “young people recognise the importance and relevance of faith … (and) how fulfilling it can be to know God and be totally accepted in a community whose whole belief system is based on love”.
The Catholic Leader is an Australian award-winning Catholic newspaper that has been published by the Archdiocese of Brisbane since 1929. Our journalism seeks to provide a full, accurate and balanced Catholic perspective of local, national and international news while upholding the dignity of the human person.
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