A new model for Catholic university chaplaincy in Brisbane

A new model for Catholic university chaplaincy in Brisbane

Br Barry Coldrey

In the June AD2000, my report concerned the new Catholic peer ministry of the National Evangelisation Teams (NET) in secondary schools, parishes and youth groups. This month, the focus moves to the NET's pioneer "Freedom Group" outreach to tertiary students at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT).

The decision to invite the National Evangelisation Team to both QUT campuses, Gardens Point and Kelvin Grove, belonged to Father Bavin Clark, the senior university Chaplain there. Father Clark is a married father of four, a former Anglican minister, who was ordained as a Catholic priest for the Brisbane Archdiocese in 2009.

In 2008, prior to World Youth Day (Sydney), Father Clark was invited by Brisbane's Archbishop John Bathersby to join a committee to address the Archbishop's concern for Catholic tertiary students. The end product of that committee's deliberations was support for a peer ministry using the proven approach of the National Evangelisation Teams but trained especially for ministry on tertiary campuses.

Canadian program

Robert Schroeders, a NET worker, and his wife, were sent to Canada for six months to learn first-hand the Catholic Christian Outreach program that the Canadians have been running successfully on tertiary campuses for twenty years.

On their return towards the end of 2009, Robert approached Father Bavin to examine the possibilities on the QUT campuses to pilot the Canadian program adapted to Australian conditions. Meanwhile, Robert spoke with tertiary ministers at other Brisbane universities, but ultimately chose to take up the offer at the Queensland University of Technology.

Father Clark has provided the following outline:

"The rest is history ... but as Freedom gains campus experience and draws in more dedicated young men and women to learn from this experience their ministry will grow and draw many young Catholics to take up the Cross and follow the Lord.

"Freedom provides a peer ministry to Catholic and non-Catholic students, should the latter choose, under the sponsorship of QUT Chaplaincy. They are not per se providing the Catholic Chaplaincy but their focus is clearly (and wonderfully) Catholic.

"However, let's not get pedantic and quibble about words. Robert and his co-workers provide their unique and valued ministry to the Queensland University of Technology on both the Brisbane campuses. Robert is a very talented, motivated and dedicated young Catholic family man who, with the Freedom Group team launched this aspect of NET Ministries ... They had achieved much in their first year of operation and more importantly, consolidated this. We are all looking forward excitedly to next year (2012)."

Robert and his wife, Danielle, express the Freedom team's ultimate objectives in these ways: "We will take the gospel to students on university campuses across Australia. Our programs are aimed at primarily, but not exclusively, university students between 18 and 30 years of age, both women and men, at any stage of faith practice.

"Our movement will, as Jesus did with his Apostles, invest spiritually in the lives of student leaders to the point where they in turn can invest in the lives of others. We boldly and clearly proclaim Christ to the students, equip them to be mature Christians and leaders, then commission them to proclaim and to equip others in their lives."

In Brisbane, the Schroeders and their companions are members of the Emmanuel Community as many NET workers are. In this context a Brisbane priest remarked to this writer that "not much happens in youth and young adult ministry in south-east Queensland unless the Emmanuel Community are involved." Therefore, the Freedom Team runs a range of activities at QUT, but also plugs the students into the Emmanuel Community's other initiatives for young adults across south-east Queensland:

• The monthly Faith-on-Tap at the Pineapple Hotel, Kangaroo Point, and the "Holy Hour" prior to Faith-on-Tap at the (nearby) St Benedict's Church, 81 Mowbray Terrace, East Brisbane.

• The annual Movers-and-Shakers Christian Leadership Training Event at the James Byrne Centre in Toowoomba (April).

• The Ignite Conference, 27-30 September 2012, at the Mueller Performing Arts Centre, Rothwell, in Brisbane's northern suburbs. This many-streamed annual event regularly draws 800-1000 teenagers and young adults.

• "North", a new event launched last year especially for young adults who have finished school within the previous two years.


Robert has been involved in youth ministry for more than 10 years in both Australia with NET and in Uganda. He is passionate about university ministry and has a vision for bringing about a positive change at universities for the good of Christ. His wife Danielle has played an integral role in the foundation of Freedom.

Mick Jones joined the Freedom Movement this year after teaching in Catholic schools for six years. He has been actively involved in "Blind Eye Ministries" for the homeless and is keen to spread the Gospel message to all young people.

Mick's wife Judith is a secondary school teacher in the Catholic system, a strong supporter of the faith and pastoral development of young people and is actively involved with the Freedom Movement.

Christine Sebastian is the Assistant Chaplain at QUT and a member of the Freedom Movement team. She also works with youth in detention, helping them to discover a better life through developing a personal relationship with Jesus.

Freedom is mainly based at the QUT Gardens Point Campus, L Block, Level 2m, Chaplaincy Office, email: rdschroeders at gmail.com tel: Mick Jones: 0450-458-140 and Robert Schroeders: 0430-069-708.

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