In 2014, there are three organisations which arrange, inform and energise peer ministry to Australian youth and young adult Catholics: the Youth Mission Teams (YMT), the National Team of the Catholic Schools Youth Ministry Association (CSYMA) and the National Evangelisation Teams (NET).
The National Evangelisation Teams were first into the field. The NET concept was developed in Minnesota in the United States in 1981 and was brought to Australia under the auspices of the Emmanuel Community, a large charismatic association located in Brisbane which has become the power house of youth and young adult ministry in south-eastern Queensland.
The NET has ten teams ministering around Australia, eight "local" teams based in a city, parish or secondary college, a "National Team" which ranges over Australia as invited and the "Freedom Team" working in tertiary ministry at the two campuses of the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane.
More recently, the Missionaries of God's Love ( AD2000, May 2014) developed a similar Australia-wide organisation which runs retreat days in Catholic secondary schools and parishes.
The Youth Mission Teams are young adults (18 to 35) who can relate as peers to the high school students. They present a personal faith that is relevant to teenagers' everyday lives.
This year there are four teams around Australia located in Perth, Sydney, Melbourne and Wollongong. Each team's primary mission is to activate secondary school ministry but includes running follow-up activities such as iSTAND weekends.
Each YMT team is made up of five to eight members who are:
• aged between 18 and 30 and passionate about their Catholic faith;
• willing to defer tertiary study or place their careers on hold and volunteer for one year full-time to youth ministry;
• able to relate to high school students as peers and role models; and
• agree to live a radical, common lifestyle of prayer, simplicity and mission for one year at a time.
Each YMT team shares a house, begins and ends each day with group prayer, attends daily Mass and spends some time in daily personal prayer.
Team members must spend two days each week in the regular workforce, on Mondays and Tuesdays, and pool their wages to cover their basic living expenses, leaving themselves an allowance of just $25 a week. This leaves Wednesday to Sunday available for full time ministry.
Overall, the Youth Mission Team is a nationwide Catholic youth ministry, endorsed by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, that uses talks, drama, music, sport and fun to live and communicate the message that knowing Jesus Christ personally means living life to the full!
The special or "X-Factor" of peer ministry which distinguishes the National Evangelisation Teams, YMT or the National TEAM of the CSYMA is the peer-to-peer approach to youth evangelisation. This enables the trained young leaders to make the Gospel relevant in the busy daily lives of teenagers and young adults. Often faith and religion appear so distant to them in the frenetic pace of their lives.
Moreover, many teenagers are prone to "switch off" from the oft-repeated advice of middle-aged parents and secondary school staff. On the other hand, they commonly relate comfortably with other young adults, who are part of their own age group. They listen more readily to their message.
Moreover, the teams are highly mobile and available to any school or parish who invites them, even in remote parts of Australia.
The CSYMA was established in Canberra in 2007 by Peter Woods, Director of Mission and Life at St Edmund's College, Manuka (Canberra). Since then the CSYMA has become a force for improved religious formation in over 100 Catholic secondary schools in Australia ( AD2000, March 2014).
Within the CSYMA ministry, its National Team provides a year of post-school faith and mission that supports youth ministry in the schools of the CSYMA Network located across Australia.
The CSYMA National Team is composed of young women and men who give a year of their lives, often a "gap year" of post-school faith and mission. National Team members must have completed secondary education. Moreover, each volunteer for the National Team accepts the following four key features of her/his year's ministry:
• an enthusiastic and active participation in Church-life wherever they are despatched;
• a period of training at the CSYMA Leadership and Equipping School early in their year of ministry;
• participation in CSYMA Regional Conferences and school outreach programs; and
• normally at least one cross-cultural mission to a developing nation near Australia such as Fiji or East Timor.
In March 2014, the Youth Ministry Equipping School was held in Canberra and run in partnership with the Asia-Pacific School of Evangelisation (APSE) and CSYMA.
This partnership offers dynamic opportunities for youth evangelisation and the development for formation pathways in Catholic schools and youth ministry across the Asia-Pacific region. Each "Equipping School" aims to empower and resource youth ministry leaders to form young people throughout Australia and the Asia-Pacific region.
Peer youth and young adult ministry is "on a roll" in the Church across Australia.
Contacts: Mark Doyle, Director, Nat ional Evangelisation Teams, PO Box 889, Paddington Qld 4054. Tel: (07) 3217-5299;
YMT National Office, PO Box 516, Corrimal, NSW 2518. Tel: (02) 4284-6600; and
Catholic Schools Youth Ministry Association (CSYMA), St Benedict's Catholic Church, Jerrabombera Ave, Narrabundah, ACT 2604.