By Emilie Ng
MARIST youth ministry leaders in Australia think they have the key to satisfying young people’s “craving for community” – host youth festivals.
Earlier this month, the Marists hosted its first youth festival since 2008, and is already preparing for a second round in 2017.
More than 180 young people, including students from some of Australia’s 54 Marist schools and volunteers from Marist young adult communities, gathered in Sydney for the National Marist Youth Festival from January 12 to 15.
Marist youth ministry national co-ordinator Nehme Khattar said the festival was an opportunity to show young people the “Marist family spirit”.
“We want our young people from Marist schools to know there is life after school in the Marist community,” Mr Khattar said.
“Our young adults still call themselves Marists and are Church people too.
“Our work is to give them a home in the Catholic Church so they feel connected.”
Young Marists also got the chance to connect with 20 Australian Marist Brothers, including Vocations Director, Br Greg McDonald, who said the festival’s success was no surprise.
“We’ve had a tradition of Marist youth festivals in both Melbourne and Sydney for 40 years now,” Br McDonald said.
“This is the first one since 2008 when we had an international festival leading up to World Youth Day, attended by 800 youth from 36 countries.
“But it’s time to put national Marist youth back on the calendar.”
Br McDonald said the Marist tradition spoke to young people’s “hunger for justice and the Gospel”.
“They are looking for ways to live an authentic Christian life within the Marist spirituality; following Jesus in the way of Mary,” he said.
The Brothers’ influence has also spurred new religious vocations, in particular two young Australians who are currently completing their novitiate in New York, USA.
The young men from Brisbane and Melbourne are expected to take their initial vows this year.
Marist Youth Ministry Brisbane regional co-ordinator Sally McEniry said the youth festival had reaffirmed her belief that young people needed a home in the Church.
“The youth festival really showed me that youth are craving community,” Miss McEniry said.
“Going forward, this gives us new energy to make spaces available for young people to feel welcome and part of a home.”
Miss McEniry said Brisbane’s Marist youth community would focus on being more missionary in 2015.
This follows a new Schoolies alternative immersion program that saw 10 Marist school-leavers head off on mission to the Philippines in December last year.