On 17 May, over 500 young Catholic adults packed the recently renovated, century-old Commercial Hotel in Parramatta to listen to visiting American speaker, Jason Everitt. Some 10 to 20 priests and religious from the Dominicans, Franciscan Capuchins and the three seminaries in Sydney were also in attendance.
After this event, Jason Everitt flew to Melbourne and on the following evening over 300 young men and women packed the Pumphouse Hotel in Fitzroy to hear him address the gathering on another aspect of the Church's sexual teaching.
This Theology-in-the-Pub commenced in Melbourne in 2008 and over the following three years a similar event under a slightly different name has taken off in most capital cities: Pub Theology (Adelaide), Guinness and God (Canberra), Faith-on-Tap (Brisbane), Theology-on-Tap (Parramatta) and Urban Theology (Sydney).
This monthly event has been the signature Young Catholic Adult gathering over the past three years with the organisers such as John Smythe and Penny Badwai (Melbourne), Jessica Langrell (Parramatta) and Tristan McLindon and David Chilnicean (Brisbane) being well educated, gifted and orthodox, practising Catholics.
The events are open to young men and women, 18 to 35 years of age, with priests and members of religious Orders of any age always welcome.
One priest (or several) is available to hear confessions in an alcove separate from the speaker and discussion.
This ministry is flourishing because talented and orthodox young Catholics are managing the activities. For it is axiomatic that young adult ministry must be largely, or entirely in the hands of young Catholics.
The latest variation of this phenomenon, which is energising the Australian young adult Catholic world is the monthly Urban Theology at the St James Hotel in Castlereagh Street, central Sydney. In this case, the principal focus is not an invited speaker but a semi-formal debate plus discussion.
The history of this encouraging revival of young adult ministry is a quite recent one.
In 2000, after World Youth Day, a number of returning Catholic pilgrims approached (then) Archbishop George Pell to establish a weekly hour of adoration for young Catholics in St Patrick's Cathedral, Melbourne. He agreed and the time chosen was 6.30pm on Thursday evenings and the event quickly became known as SIX30.
SIX30 is planned and led by young Catholic adults who invite the priest to guide the weekly Holy Hour, arrange the music, make the announcements and publicise the event. During the hour at least one priest is available for confessions.
In Sydney, a Holy Hour, arranged by the Franciscan Capuchins, has been held in St Mary's Cathedral on Wednesday evenings for some years but more recently the venue has been moved to St Benedict's, Broadway, in the centre of a major university precinct which includes three tertiary institutions: Sydney University, UTS (the Technology University) and Notre Dame University (Sydney).
In Brisbane, there is a similar monthly event in the Cathedral called the Leaven Hour.
Meanwhile, in Melbourne, around the time SIX30 was commenced, Archbishop Pell encouraged a group of dedicated young Catholics to attend the Annual General Meeting of the Australian Catholic Students Association which was largely moribund and had been espousing unorthodox positions on matters of Catholic faith and practice.
These young Catholics voted the existing ACSA executive out of office and rejuvenated ACSA as a strong Catholic association with separate state affiliates.
The Annual Conference - with some aspects of a classic retreat - is the central event of the ACSA year's activities and has inspired a number of other Catholic groups to arrange retreat/conferences such as:
"Reasons for Hope" at the Chittick Lodge Conference Centre, Gerringong, NSW, in April.
"Firm in the Faith", University Students' Retreat at the Wedderburn Christian Centre, near Appin, south of Sydney, in July.
Still to come later in 2011:
Young Men of God Conference, Collaroy Centre (Sydney's Northern Beaches), 13-15 October, Missionaries of God's Love and the Disciples of Jesus Covenant Communities. See the website: www. ymgmovement.org.
The iWitness Retreat, 'The Tops' Conference Centre, Bendena Garden Road, Stanwell Tops, NSW, 2508, 8-11 December 2011. The relevant website for the iWitness Retreat is www.lifetothe full.com.au; the email address is iWitness2011@gmail.com and one of the key organisers is Amy Vierboom whose address is: Life Marriage and the Family Centre, Polding House, Level 11, 133 Liverpool Street, Sydney, 2000.
Each of these conferences has become very popular with many young adult Catholics and, while each is distinctive, they all tend to have the following common features: strong speakers dealing with topics important to Catholic adults, robust discussion, daily Mass, confessions, Eucharistic Adoration, along with a sporting activity during the second afternoon and a social function on one evening.
There is therefore much reason for hope in the Church's future.