In 2006, after the Grand Final of the Australian Football League, I noticed a flyer advertising the Annual Conference of the Victorian Branch of ACSA, the Australian Catholic Students Association. The venue was Catholic Theological College in East Melbourne and the event was well-organised. On the other hand, the attendance was modest. Overall some thirty young adults attended some or all sessions.
However, the speakers were orthodox and articulate. Over two days the Conference provided my entrée to the world of dedicated and organised young adult Catholics. So what was it that distinguished these young Catholic adults from others associated with the networks of some religious orders?
Most importantly, they were practising Catholics who accepted the Church's core doctrines, attended Mass on Sundays, received the sacraments and did their best with the Church's moral teachings.
In particular, and distinctively, they had returned to regular confession (the Sacrament of Penance). They had also 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 calibre of religious and moral formation they received from some staff who offered watered down or dissenting versions of Catholic belief and practice. Interestingly, not a few of their most articulate leaders had attended Anglican or other non-Catholic colleges.
World Youth Day
In the perspective of Melbourne, it appears that in the wake of World Youth Day, Rome, 2000, some enthusiastic young Catholics returning from overseas and associated with Archbishop George Pell, established a weekly Holy Hour (SIX30) for young adults at 6.30 pm at St Patrick's Cathedral on Thursday evenings.
The Holy Hour was managed from the Vocations Office and part of its focus was to pray for more priestly and religious vocations.
At the same time, a group of dedicated young Catholics took over the Australian Catholic Students Association (ACSA) ousting the existing executive which had espoused the causes of the liberal Catholic agenda, such as women and married priests and approval for the active gay life as an option for Catholics.
Over the ten years since these events, the weekly Holy Hour has been held regularly and ACSA has organised well-attended Conferences for young adult Catholics. Moreover, the Association has been blessed with very gifted, orthodox leadership.
Meanwhile, in 2006, Campion Liberal Arts College opened in Parramatta, NSW, to provide a strongly Catholic Liberal Arts degree to dedicated young Catholics or those who resonate closely with Catholic values.
Then, in 2008, Theology-in-the-Pub was established for young adult Catholics and was immediately successful in Sydney and Melbourne. Two years later, with slight name variations, the event has spread to Adelaide and Brisbane.
Back in 2005, tertiary Catholic ministry in the universities had been mostly ineffective on many campuses. However, five years later, the general situation has improved markedly.
While in Melbourne recently, Cardinal Pell remarked that he was spending $ 1 million a year on ministry in 'his' four universities: Sydney, New South Wales, Macquarie and Notre Dame
Reform was in the air, backed by the resources required to bring about positive changes. In each of these Sydney universities, a team approach and youthful leadership are the norms with a palpable sense of enthusiasm. A young lay leader, Daniel Hill, is Co-ordinator for university ministry in the Archdiocese.
Other positive developments in recent years have included the National Evangelisation Teams (from Brisbane) which focus on ministry with parish youth groups and secondary school students while a five person NET "Freedom Group" has been inserted into Queensland University of Technology as the Catholic Chaplaincy
One should also mention the vigorous efforts of the Missionaries of God's Love and their Young Men of God Movement which is having its Annual Conference at the Collaroy Centre (Collaroy) on 15-17 October.
In light of all these positive developments older Catholics might consider assisting this blaze of enthusiasm among these dedicated young Catholic adults. This is an area where even small money contributions can make a difference.
SIX30 is a weekly Holy Hour, in the Cathedral – based on Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, Gospel Reading, Homily, Benediction, and with confession available. In Melbourne: The Co-ordinator, SIX 30, Vocations Office, St Patrick's Cathedral, PO Box 146, East Melbourne, Vic 3002.
Theology-in-the-Pub is a monthly event. In Melbourne it is managed by a Committee led by John Smyth, St Kevin's College, Senior School, Moonga Road, Toorak, Vic 3142. Cheques: "Theology-in-the-Pub".
Then there is the Campion College Students Association, PO Box 3052, Toongabbie East, NSW 2146. Its Treasurer is Paul O'Donovan and the Students Association would welcome your support.
Small sums of money in support of such ventures will have a disproportionate impact on their ministries which are proving successful.
It is not too much to say that today Catholic young adult ministry is "on a roll"!