Factors in the success of Australia's young adult ministry

Factors in the success of Australia's young adult ministry

Br Barry Coldrey

In 2002, after World Youth Day, Toronto, Canada, a number of returning Catholic pilgrims approached (then) Archbishop George Pell to establish a regular weekly hour of adoration for young Catholics in St Patrick's Cathedral in Melbourne.

He agreed and the time chosen was 6.30-7.30p.m. on Thursday evenings. The event quickly became known as SIX30 and now is referred to simply as "Holy Hour". The new "Holy Hour", managed by young adults for young adults, was born and the "new" youth and young adult ministry was launched. In Melbourne, this ministry has been ongoing over since.

SIX30 is planned and led by young adults who invite the priest (ideally a recently-ordained priest) to guide the weekly Holy Hour, arrange the music, make the announcements and publicise the event. During the hour at least one priest has been available to hear confessions.

Afterwards, those who wished went together for a meal at a pre-arranged local pub, café or restaurant.

What has distinguished these young Catholic adults at "Holy Hour" from others associated with the secularised networks of the declining religious congregations of teaching brothers and nuns involved in education?

They have had a number of common characteristics:

• They were practising Catholics, i.e., they accepted the Church's core teachings, attended Mass on Sundays, received the sacraments and did their best with the Church's moral teaching.

• In particular, and distinctively, they have returned to the Sacrament of Reconciliation/Confession.

• They had, in addition, rediscovered the practice of adoration of Jesus present in the Blessed Sacrament.

• These young Catholics, often university students or young graduates, spoke well of the Church's leaders both in Rome and in Australia and were proud of their Catholic faith.

• Most had attended Catholic schools but were often critical of the religious and moral formation they received from staff who reflected the "Heinz 57 Varieties" of religious belief and practice.

Young Adult Ministry is an aspect of the whole rationale of the Church's ministry, recently redefined by Pope Benedict XVI in 2007 during an address to the Brazilian hierarchy in which he stressed the fundamental mission of the Church:

"We Bishops have come together to manifest this central truth, since we are bound directly to Christ, the Good Shepherd. The mission entrusted to us, as teachers of the faith, consists in recalling, in the words of the Apostle to the Gentiles, that our Saviour 'desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth' (1 Tim 2:4). This, and nothing else, is the purpose of the Church: the salvation of individual souls, one by one. For this reason the Father sent His Son, and in the Lord's own words, transmitted to us in the Gospel of St John, 'as the Father has sent me, even so I send you' (John 20:21)."

Sydney "revitalised"

In fact, the dedicated Holy Hour, to which reference has been made, has been attempted previously in Sydney (and flourishes in the Parramatta Diocese) but in the past, the venture has depended on this-or-that young member of a religious order. When this priest or brother was changed the initiative fizzled.

In 2014, under the leadership of Bernard Toutounji, Director of Catholic Youth Services for the Archdiocese, City Silence, is intended to be a permanent feature of youth ministry. City Silence, the weekly Holy Hour, arranged by young adults for young adults, is held at St Mary's Cathedral on Tuesday evenings at 6.30 p.m.

Emma O'Shea, CYS Events Organiser, explained the initiative in this way: "We want university students, alumni, church youth groups and city workers to put aside their worries and the frenetic pace of modern life and come to the Cathedral on Tuesday evenings to experience a quiet reflection, guided meditation, worship and song."

Young clergy from across the Archdiocese are invited to lead each week and different priests are invited to hear confessions. Similarly, a variety of musicians come each week to provide the music and guide the singing. Afterwards, those who wish, seek out a local meal venue.

In addition to City Silence, CYS is arranging Catholicism 101. This event is held monthly in the Chapter Hall at St Mary's Cathedral. The next session gives the flavour of these explorations of Catholic doctrine.

On Tuesday, 1 July, Fr Mannes Tellis OP, Chaplain, University of Sydney, spoke on "Purgatory, a New Hope", from 7.45-9p.m. with dinner provided. This event took place after the Holy Hour and has been arranged on a monthly basis.

Meanwhile, CorE Nights are held at the Homebush West headquarters of Catholic Youth Services. This is also a monthly event. CorE offers opportunities for socialising, prayer, food and formation, discussions and resource sharing.

CorE is intended for young men and women, aged 18 to 35, who are involved in youth ministry. The most recent event at the time of writing was on 14 July. The speaker was Fr Chris Ryan (Missionaries of God's Love) who addressed the topic, "Youth Ministry Phenomenon".

CYS also runs Chill and Chat sessions on Wednesday evenings at CYS House which are hosted by the Net Ministries Team. Chill and Chat is a "casual weekly group for young adults." Altogether, the Archdiocese of Sydney has taken a "great leap forward" in its youth ministry in 2014.

Campion College initiatives

Campion College, Australia's sole Liberal Arts College, now in its eighth year, has had its largest intake this year with 41 First Years bringing its overall numbers close to one hundred tertiary students. Under the leadership of its youthful American-born President, Dr Ryan Messmore, the college is making great strides with many new initiatives. Already after 18 months at the helm, Dr Messmore is a popular lecturer at young adult events around Australia.

Meanwhile, during the mid-year university vacation, Campion hosted major events at its Toongabbie Campus (near Parramatta) including the Witherspoon Network in the first vacation week and the Faith Formation Program, from 9-11 July.

The Faith Formation seminar aimed to form young people intellectually in the Catholic faith and develop their virtue in character. Topics included Jesus, True God and True Man, the Magisterium of the Church versus Scripture Alone, The Eucharist, Theology of the Body, Vatican II, When? What? and Why?, and Morals for Modern People.

While senior secondary students are the main target audience for the Faith Formation Program, it is open to all interested people with accommodation available.

The Thomas More Centre's YPAT (Youth Political Activist Training) was held at Campion College, from 17-23 July and Campion College's Open Day is being held on 27 August and this year is an evening event with participants invited to a Formal Hall as part of their experience of visiting the College.

Contacts: Catholic Youth Services, CYS House, 108, The Crescent, Homebush West, NSW 2140. Emails: info@cys.orginfo@cys.org; netministries@catholicyouthservices.org; or events@catholicyouthservices.org

Campion College: www.campion.edu.au; info@campion.edu.au or (02) 9896 9300.

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