Young adult Catholics peer ministry in WA and Queensland

Young adult Catholics peer ministry in WA and Queensland

Br Barry Coldrey

In recent issues, AD2000 has reported on the flourishing ministry of the National Evangelisation Teams (NET) whose eleven young adult teams provide a peer ministry in secondary schools and parishes. One of the NET groups, called "Freedom" provides an effective Catholic chaplaincy at both campuses of the Queensland University of Technology.

Meanwhile, there are equivalent developments in Western Australia where Bruce Downes initiated "The Catholic Guy" in 1996, assisted by his wife, Rosemary, his five adult children and some Perth friends. Bruce felt prompted by God to reach out to young adults who were disconnected from the Church and, in addition, to strengthen those already committed to their faith.

By 1996, Bruce already had twenty years of experience as a prominent Catholic youth leader. After a typical Catholic upbringing and education with his four brothers, he drifted until in 1972 at a prayer group, a priest introduced him to faith in God and the Catholic Church in a manner which was particularly engaging.

Thereafter Bruce did voluntary work for the Church when he was able but with marriage and a growing family of five children he needed a well-paid position. However, he found time for daily Mass and the Rosary and in due course the Perth Archdiocese employed him in youth ministry.

Within a couple of weeks, Bruce was at a weekend youth camp, and late one evening, with restless teenagers craving action, he was asked to speak so he told them stories from his life's experiences. With hindsight, he says: "My speaking and preaching career commenced that evening!"

Four years later, Bruce was appointed Archdiocesan Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry, a post he held for eight years. It was during those years that he noticed the drift of young people from the Church, some moving from their childhood Catholicism to other Christian Churches; but mostly they just left.

Bruce decided do something about this situation and the "Catholic Guy Community" was the result, including a regular weekly TV program in Perth aimed at disaffected Catholic young people. Its Mission Statement contains four objectives:

• Being a witness of God's love in a manner which is powerful, personal and purposeful.

• Being a home in the Church for those who have no other.

• Raising men and women to love God with their whole heart, soul and mind.

• Fulfilling the mission of "The Catholic Guy" ministry.

In due course, the community developed Youth Impact as the arm of "The Catholic Guy" directed at secondary school students where the drift from faith commences for many. The regular events all year around include "Friday evenings" at different venues.

While the ministry is centred in Perth it now has a small base in South Australia and receives occasional invitations to run similar events in the eastern states.

Youth Impact aims to show that it is possible for Christianity to be enjoyable and relevant to teenagers' everyday lives. The Impact team runs regular evening youth groups, camps and conferences. The team can be invited by schools to do seminars, retreats and recollection days. This is a similar ministry to that provided by the NET and Youth Mission Teams in the eastern Australian states.

The Catholic Guy and Youth Impact are successful because they have capable, enthusiastic, down-to-earth, young adult leaders, with backup from older leaders.

"The Catholic Guy" can be contacted at 45 Wellington Road, Morley, WA 6062, tel: (1300) 734 880, email: or on its website: Youth Impact is at www.youthimpact. and email: info@youthimpact.

Meanwhile, what "The Catholic Guy" provides in Western Australia, the Emmanuel Community supports in south-eastern Queensland.

Shayne Bennett has often described how, as a young Catholic in his 20s, he helped to establish a Covenant (Charismatic) Community in Brisbane. In January 1975, he was in Melbourne as the representative of a youth prayer group to attend a National Conference on charismatic renewal.

During that meeting four Brisbane leaders of Catholic Charismatic Renewal began to share a vision of developing a covenant community in Queensland as an opportunity to be more committed Catholics.

That was thirty-five years ago. Since then the Emmanuel Community has brought the National Evangelisation Teams (NET) to Australia from the United States and Shayne's wife, Shanelle, is the NET Director.

In recent years, the Community has developed a range of activities for youth and young adults throughout south-eastern Queensland:

Zero Gravity, an annual Summer Camp for secondary school teenagers which regularly brings together over 200 young adults at a rural venue.

Charged which has two programs for the same age group. The focus is developing their skills and abilities in the areas of music and leadership. Charged is held on the First Friday evening of each month and participants are requested to make a commitment to attend over the whole year.

Voltage is also available to Brisbane teenagers on two Friday evenings a month with games, food, discussion and "inputs about God, faith and life" at the Emmaus Centre in Paddington, an inner Brisbane suburb.

North is intended for school leavers and is about establishing their position as they head into university, TAFE, the workforce or a Gap Year. North involves regular meetings, a Retreat and a Summer Outreach to an aboriginal community.

Ignite, which was mentioned in the July AD2000, is to be held from 28-30 September for 800-1000 young Catholics at the Brisbane Conference Centre. For further information: Luke Plant: (07) 3217-5199 or (0411) 961-223, email:

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