The annual Ignite Conference 2012 - hosted by Brisbane's Emmanuel Community - attracted around 1,000 Catholic teenagers and young adults from across Australia to connect and worship with young fellow Catholics. Ignite has been an impressive success since the event commenced in 2001 and the 27-30 September Ignite Conference was no exception.
Meanwhile, the Emmanuel Community is the powerhouse of the Church's ministry to Catholic youth and young adults in south-eastern Queensland and northern New South Wales. The Community gave Ignite to Brisbane's Catholics over ten years ago and guarantees its success.
The venue was the Mueller Performing Arts Centre, Redcliffe, in Brisbane's northern suburbs. The Conference theme was "Awaken" inspired by the early Christian mantra: "Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you" (Ephesians 5:14).
The Emmanuel Community's Director of Music, Pat Keady, a key Ignite organiser, elaborated on the "Awake" theme to enthuse Brisbane's young Catholics three weeks before the event: "Wake up! It's time to rub the sleep from our eyes, blink a few times, step out of bed and draw back the curtains, because it's time to be opening the 'windows' to the Catholic youth of Australia to let the Holy Spirit flood into your lives.
"God wants to do something exciting in His Church and in Australia, and we invite everyone in the Church of Brisbane to come be a part of it."
Ignite commences each day with a two-hour program of worship, prayer and a keynote speaker. The key-note speakers were, on Friday, Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane, on Saturday, Paul Ninnes, Director of Real Talk (Ministry), Australia, and on Sunday, Pat Keady, Director of Emmanuel Worship.
Archbishop Coleridge gave a dramatic presentation of life as an encounter with the living Jesus - no matter the power of the aggressive secular culture in which the modern Christian has to live.
On Saturday, following the key-note address, there was an hour of worship, and ten additional priests available to hear confessions. The long lines of young penitents reminded one of the World Youth Days.
Along with its array of guest speakers and workshops for all ages this year's Ignite included a Vocations and Ministries expo.
One of the organising team, Paul Ninnes, remarked prior to the conference that surveys showed that more than 80 per cent of young people who engaged with Jesus said that that had happened at a big event they attended. He told group leaders and conference workshop presenters that attracting youth to events such as Ignite was extremely important for this reason alone.
"You can spend all year long doing many things but often it's the big events where big things happen and people make that deep and lifelong commitment," he said.
One of the high points of Ignite 2012 was the noon Mass on Friday, 28 September, concelebrated by Archbishop Coleridge with several priests.
During his homily Archbishop Coleridge said, "God made us to live forever and God will help us in every way possible to make an impact on other people but while here on earth we must use every moment of our lives to promote God's marvellous kingdom to which we belong."
He encouraged the young people to persevere in their faith if faced with sudden fears or personal hesitations. Even Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane hesitated, as the Scripture says, 'a sudden fear came upon Him'."
Ignite's 2012 Group Leaders encouraged everyone to seize and continue the momentum begun at the conference by organising follow-up gatherings back in their parishes and schools.
Archbishop Coleridge was accompanied to Ignite by Fr Morgan Batt (Brisbane Vocations Director), Monsignor Anthony Randazzo (Rector, Holy Spirit Seminary, Banyo) and Fr Paul Catchlove, a young Roman university graduate who has been active in the Queensland Catholic youth scene.
In addition there were numerous lay people representing the best of the Catholic youth leaders in the Brisbane area who provided strong role models.
While Ignite attracts an impressive array of speakers to address its five major "streams", the streams themselves reflect the the diverse interests and ages of the young attendees, who ranged from pre-teens to university students and recent graduates. Ignite caters for these different age groupings.
The names of the steams reflected the mood of the youth event: The Map concerns leadership and youth ministry; The Beat addresses worship and the creative arts; The Feet refers to action, mission and evangelisation; The Vibe refers to culture and modern trends; and The Source refers to prayer and lifestyles.
If young practising Catholics can feel isolated in some parishes, they experienced none of this at Ignite where the large Mueller Performing Arts Centre was thronged with youthful active Catholics at Masses, Eucharistic Adoration, uplifting addresses, and at the Sacrament of Reconciliation, not to mention the wide array of social activities and networking.
Ignite was not the last of the major Catholic Young Adult events for this year. On the weekend of 12-14 October at the Stanwell Tops Conference Centre, via Stanwell Park, south of Sydney, the Young Men of God held their Conference while on 6-9 December at the same venue, there will be the impressive iWitness Conference organised by the Life, Mission and Family Centre of the Archdiocese of Sydney.