Australian Catholic Students Association Conference 2012

Australian Catholic Students Association Conference 2012

Br Barry Coldrey

The Australian Catholic Students Association (ACSA) was appointed by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference to represent Catholic tertiary students and young alumni. Its Annual Conference is a highlight of the university year for dedicated, practising Catholic tertiary students.

On 6-8 July, 190 delegates from every state in Australia registered for the 2012 (ACSA) Conference held at Queens College, University of Melbourne. The Conference theme was "Defending Human Dignity".

In addition to registrations, a further thirty young men and women attended the MacKillop Ball on the Saturday evening when the Leader of the Federal Opposition, Tony Abbott, put in a cameo appearance and was mobbed by many of those in attendance.

ACSA 2012 was an outstanding success and it was again obvious that the toxic secular agenda of the cultural majority meant nothing to these young men and women, intensely Catholic, full of enthusiasm and possessed of wide-ranging talents from across the university, business and professional worlds.


ACSA was not always such a happy celebration of young adult Australian Catholicism. In the 1990s the organisation was near-moribund with its leaders occasionally surfacing to mouth the unorthodox left-liberal verities of the secular agenda. However, in 2002 the combined efforts of Cardinal George Pell, Father Greg Jordan SJ and many young, dedicated Catholics such as Daniel Hill, took over and reformed the association into the thoroughly orthodox and vibrant body it is at the present time.

Today's ACSA "Mission" is to:

• inspire a deeper love of Jesus Christ and His Church through prayer, the Sacraments and in Masses of extraordinary beauty;

• inform young Catholic adults of the threats which challenge the moral foundation of individuals and society;

• equip young Catholic adults to speak with authority and act with commitment on their Catholic faith.

The Conference opened with a Sung High Mass in the Extraordinary Latin Rite. Father Glen Tattersall, Director of Melbourne's Latin Mass Chaplaincy was celebrant and Peter Zielinski, a Seminarian at Vianney College, Wagga Wagga, was Director of Liturgy.

Fr David Nugent of the Missionaries of the Most Holy Eucharist, a recently established Congregation in the Diocese of Frejus-Toulon in the south of France, led a Holy Hour before the Blessed Sacrament and groups of students maintained all-night adoration.

The speakers at ACSA 2012 included Professor Tracey Rowland, Kevin Andrews MHR, Fr Aidan Nichols OP, Dr Matt Tan and Dr David van Gend. The Mannix Oration was given by prominent journalist, Christopher Pearson, of  The Australian.

The ACSA leaders thanked their Sponsors, the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference in the persons of Cardinal George Pell and Archbishop Denis Hart, the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and the Family and the University Chaplaincies of the Archdiocese of Sydney whose Director, Daniel Hill, was present at the Conference. Daniel is a Past President of ACSA.

The meeting granted Life Membership to two of its Past Presidents, Dr Xavier O'Kane, a Consultant at the Intensive Care Unit, Austin Hospital, and his twin brother, Camillus, who has degrees in Law and Town Planning from Sydney University and is currently doing his Articles at a legal firm in Echuca, Victoria.

Elections for the ACSA Executive (2012-2013) saw Richard Lyons of Melbourne University declared President. Richard is an old boy of St Kevin's College and in addition to his university studies has a part-time job with the Institute of Public Affairs.

Nick Smith (Sydney University) was elected Vice-President, David Chilnicean, Secretary (Qld, Campion College), Tom Ryan (Qld), Treasurer, Kieran Walton, Media, Lucy Righetti, Publications, and Michelle Mannering (Vic), IT. The NSW State Representative is Jordan Granthan (Campion College) and the Victorian is Matt Pati (Latrobe University).

In addition to the above-mentioned speakers, ACSA was blessed by the presence of four Dominican Sisters from Our Lady's Convent, Ganmain, Wagga Wagga Diocese: Srs Mary Martin, Mary Ephrem, Mary Clare and Mary Catherine; and two Sisters from the Dominican Sisters of Nashville, Tennessee, Sydney Convent: Srs Maria Kolbe and Loretta Park. Father Paul Rowse OP, Chaplain at Sydney University, also attended the conference.

The ACSA Chaplain, Fr Greg Jordan SJ, was present and was principal celebrant at the final Mass in the Corpus Christi Seminary's Chapel of the Sacred Heart in Carlton.

Celebration of faith

In short, ACSA represents a celebration of their Catholic faith by many of the Church's young adult leaders. The blend of activities works splendidly and has inspired other weekend conferences around Australia although each has its own flavour and identity: e.g., iWitness, Young Men of God and Reasons for Hope, to name just three.

A youthful slogan for ACSA attendees might comprise the words expressed by Tom Hill, one of the famous Hill family of Culburra Beach via Nowra, NSW. Tom was College Captain at Nowra Christian College in his final year and has now joined his older brother Matt as an undergraduate at Notre Dame University (Broadway, Sydney Campus). Tom said, "We pray hard, we play hard and we party hard". With enthusiasm such as this, no wonder ACSA 2012 was such a success.

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