The 150 delegates who attended the Australian Catholic Student Association (ACSA) Conference at Duchesne College, University of Queensland, from 10-12 July, represented the cream of the Church's youthful, contemporary leadership in Australia.
The toxic secular agenda of the cultural majority meant nothing to these young men and women, strongly Catholic, bursting with enthusiasm, and gifted with wide- ranging talents from across the business and professional world.
In fact, the ACSA Conference has aspects of a retreat, in addition to the serious lectures, robust discussion and professional socialising of the classic conference among the tertiary-educated.
However, these are young men and women and the talk over meals and coffee breaks sometimes focussed on the approaching "State of Origin" Rugby League Challenge which was to pit teams from Victoria, NSW and Queensland in an epic struggle worthy of the Homeric heroes of the Iliad and the Odyssey.
In due course, on Saturday afternoon, the Victorian team led by Matt Restall defeated NSW captained by Camillus O'Kane before being eclipsed by the Queensland men led by Anthony Goodwin, in front of a large crowd of parents and friends on the University field.
Senator Ron Boswell (National Party, Queensland) presented the trophy to his fellow Queenslanders. It was a close call.
Some readers may frown at the mere mention of Rugby League matches at an ACSA Conference. However, the games were followed by a Formal Dinner during which Bishop Geoffrey Jarrett of Lismore gave the Mannix Address.
A dance, led by a seven-piece swing band, capped off a richly varied afternoon and evening.
Earlier, the Conference had commenced with Mass in the Duchesene College Chapel with the Principal Celebrant, Father Bevin Clarke, Catholic Chaplain at the Queensland University of Technology. Fr Nicholas Morris preached the homily.
The Master of Ceremonies, Peter Zielinski, a seminarian at Wagga Wagga, led a gifted team of servers while the choir was in the hands of Michael Gleeson. They were confident in both Latin and English Mass propers and hymns. The Icon, Mary Seat of Wisdom, newly arrived in Brisbane from Rome by way of Melbourne, was placed at the side of the sanctuary.
All throughout Friday night there was Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in the Duchesne College Chapel and on both Saturday and Sunday mornings, Bishop Jarrett was principal celebrant at Masses in St Ignatius (Jesuit) Church in Toowong which almost all delegates attended.
On Friday night, the Latin Mass Community, led by Father Greg Jordan, presented Mass in the Extraordinary Rite for those Conference delegates who wished to attend a second Eucharist after a busy day.
The presentations of the invited lecturers made serious demands on Conference delegates, each of whom is presumed to be a young Catholic leader in his or her chosen field.
The speakers included Dr Karl Schmude, an academic of over 30 years at the University of New England and currently President of the Council of Campion Liberal Arts College at Toongabbie, Sydney. In fact, ten young men and women from Campion College attended, led by the President and Treasurer of their Student Council, Matt Harradine and Paul O'Dwyer.
Other speakers included: Melinda Tankhard Reist, Father Michael Mason, a Research Fellow at ACU, Jonathan Doyle, Dr Tracey Rowland and Dr James Franklin. Among the topics were "Educating for Eternity", "World Youth Day: Renewal for Australia?" and "Stem Cells, Cloning and the Meaning of Life."
Over the last eight years, some of ACSA's basic constituency, students in tertiary education, has changed, as young men and women graduate and enter business and professional life. This was the reason for the establishment of the Catholic Young Adults Network in 2006 and the launch of ACSA Alumni during this year.
This means that those who have graduated from tertiary institutions can take part in ACSA Conferences and support the formation of students in a practical way.
Some 25 ACSA Alumni attended this Conference led by recent Past Presidents, Camillus O'Kane, David Hill and Aaron Russell. This "coterie grouping" was addressed by David Goodwin, a very successful young Queensland businessman who is being groomed to be Chairman of the Brisbane Chamber of Commerce and a National Party Senate candidate.
ACSA has been blessed with exceptional leadership since its renewal eight years ago. On Sunday morning, it held its Annual General Meeting with some 50 delegates in attendance. All positions on the Executive were open and after a vigorously contested election Xavier O'Kane was installed as the new President. (The first ballot resulted in a tie and so, "black smoke" was released to the media and visitors outside, but Xavier won on the second ballot!)
The following were declared elected in due course: Vice- President, Tom Horsfall, Secretary, Matt Hill, Treasurer, David Smith, Publications Officer, Chris Restall, Media Officer, Tristan McLindon, and Functions Manager, Siobhan Horsfall.
ACSA's basic clientele consists of dedicated Catholic tertiary students, but senior secondary students are welcome with the youngest attendee at ACSA '09 15-year-old Tom Hill, a fine Rugby League player from a famous Catholic family on the New South Wales south coast.
In short ACSA '09 was an inspiring event. The well-known Jesuit, Father Greg Jordan, remains the ACSA Chaplain and lends a distinguished aura to the association. q
Dr Barry Coldrey, a former teacher at Christian Brothers secondary colleges is active in Catholic youth ministry and a regular contributor to AD2000.