Catholic young adult ministry: Sydney's formula for success

Catholic young adult ministry: Sydney's formula for success

Br Barry Coldrey

Over fifty students and youthful chaplaincy leaders attended a mid-year universities retreat at Wedderburn, Sydney, in early July, prior to the 16-21 August, World Youth Day in Madrid.

Over the past two years, since Cardinal Pell re-organised Sydney's Catholic tertiary ministry in the five universities within the Archdiocese - University of Sydney, UTS, the University of New South Wales, Macquarie and Notre Dame Broadway - the Catholic presence on these campuses has become strong and ever more pervasive.

The Archdiocese of Sydney is presently in the forefront of providing a highly-visible, strongly orthodox and quietly effective Catholic presence on the five tertiary institutions. Peer ministry is the key and team ministry the norm, while consistent Church support and reasonable financial provision are also critical factors in Sydney's success.

Religious movement

The Tertiary Ministry Convenor, Daniel Hill, is a well-educated, young married layman and his support teams at each university are all committed young people under the age of thirty-five. They include Chris Gordon at Macquarie University and two women from the Fraternas (see further on), Anna Maria and Cecilia, at the University of New South Wales.

The recently ordained Dominican Chaplain, Father Paul Rouse OP, complements these teams in his priestly ministry.

As Cardinal Pell wrote a few months ago: "Our experience here in Sydney has made it clear that lay people (appropriately trained and qualified) are more than capable of effectively leading chaplaincy teams at university campuses ... they naturally need priestly support to make Mass and the Sacraments available."

To return to the mid-year Universities Retreat, the retreatants arrived at Wedderburn Christian Centre during the morning of Monday, 4 July. The keynote speaker (after the preliminaries) was James McDonald, a lecturer at the Catholic Adult Education Centre, who focused on the approaching World Youth Day and its theme, "Planted and built-up in Jesus Christ, Firm in the faith." Many of those attending the retreat would be attending WYD in Spain six weeks later.

The Retreat patrons were Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati and St Maria Goretti with the Mass on Monday evening including the Memorial of the former while on Wednesday St Maria Goretti was honoured similarly.

In the evening, Eileen Leyne, a leader of the Fraternas Community of Reconciliation, addressed the gathering on the fundamental choice for the dedicated Catholic, "Your Foundation: Christ or the World?"

The Fraternas Community of Reconciliation was founded in Lima, Peru, in 1991. It is one of the new movements in the Church and has spread rapidly throughout South America, the United States, Italy and Australia over the past 20 years.

During the evening, following Mass, there was a Holy Hour of Adoration, lively discussions, and free time.

On the second day, Bishop Terry Brady, a Sydney auxiliary, spoke on his life as a priest and bishop in the context of a general discussion on vocation, "What is Your Calling?"

In the evening, there was a light-hearted "Concert of All Talents", a Candle Light Rosary Procession through the Australian bush, songs around the camp fire and all-night Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. In this situation where some of the young students did not wish to go to bed before their Adoration Hour, there was a continuous program of films in another room to pass the time pleasantly.

On the final Wednesday morning, Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Canberra-Goulburn arrived to lead the session with a splendid address on aspects of the Christian life.

His input was followed by a thorough Q & A session on vocations with a very impressive panel: Daniel Hill and Chris Vaughan, young married men represented the vocation of marriage, and Fathers Michael de Stoop (Vocation Director, Archdiocese of Sydney) and Robert Stewart, OFM Cap, the priestly vocation.

There were also two Dominican nuns from Nashville, Tennessee, Sisters Maria Kolbe and Maria Cecilia, and two members of the Fraternas, Cecilia and Anna Maria, on the platform. The students heard many points of view on the vital question of their calling.

In short, this retreat was a further example of the revival of dedicated young adult Catholic life, despite the extending tentacles of secularism.

World Youth Day

Such a timely development, as indicated in earlier articles on this theme, has been due in no small measure to the World Youth Days and the emergence of stronger Church leadership in several Australian State capitals.

Despite all the adverse trends, there still remain many strong Catholic families. Some of their children, including those involved in the above retreat, have been home-schooled, others move in the networks of confident, orthodox religious movements, such as the Latin Mass Community, Regnum Christi, the Emmanuel Community, the Neo-Catechumenate, the Missionaries of God's Love, the Fraternas, the Franciscan (Capuchins), the Dominican friars and the Young Men of God.

Between now and the end of 2011 the following conferences for young adult Catholics will be taking place:

- The Young Men of God Conference, sponsored by the Young Men of God and the Disciples of Jesus Covenant Communities, at the Collaroy Centre, Collaroy, Sydney, 14-16 October. Contact details: Nick Morgan (Canberra)

- The iWitness Conference, 8-11 December, Stanwell Tops Conference Centre, near Stanwell Park in the Wollongong area, south of Sydney.

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