Stanwell Park is a very attractive seaside resort south of Sydney, near Wollongong.
"Tops" has a beautifully situated Conference Centre set among dense Australian bush on the escarpment above the surf beach below. This was the venue for the annual Young Men of God (YMG) Retreat, held on the 10-12 October 2014 weekend.
One hundred and thirty men attended, including Fathers Ken Barker and Dave Callaghan of the Missionaries of God's Love and some ten youthful trainees for their Congregation.
All was silent as we parked our car and walked through the venue to see if there were any early risers. In the warm, spring stillness we found thirty young men at Eucharistic Adoration in the makeshift chapel.
Within half an hour, the rest of the 130 men had emerged from their cabins for an early 7am Mass.
The Young Men of God Retreat, the climax of the year's activities for the members, has been held regularly since the first gathering was held on the NSW South Coast in 2004.
The YMG is a movement closely associated with the Missionaries of God's Love which arose from the charismatic side of the Australian Catholic Church in 1986 with early members often drawn from the flourishing Disciples of Jesus Covenant Communities.
By 2014, almost thirty years later, the MGLs are a Congregation of Diocesan Status with over twenty priest members and many aspirants and seminarians at their training colleges in Canberra and Melbourne.
The Missionaries have already sponsored two additional ministries in their short history, the Young Men of God and the CSYMA, the Catholic Schools Youth Missionary Association, the former in 2004 and the CSYMA in 2008.
The Young Men of God arrange "Brotherhood evenings", Formation Weekends, camping trips, local and international immersions with the grimly deprived in developing nations and the annual Retreat.
The 2014 Retreat followed a successful, proven format: There was Mass, Eucharistic Adoration, opportunities to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation, input from notable speakers, small group discussions and free time for casual sports on the surf beach at Stanwell Park.
There were many highlights:
* The presence of movement members from around Australia, including Tim Davis and a minibus load of young staff and students from John Paul College, Coffs Harbour, and Shayne Bennett, Moderator of the Emmanuel Community and six of his leaders from Brisbane.
* The careful preparation of the worship sessions.
* The attendance of five priests to hear confessions, including Franciscan Capuchin Vocation Director, Fr Andrew McFadden OFM (Cap) and Fathers Ken and Dave.
* The inspiring speakers including Bishop Peter Comensoli, Administrator of the Archdiocese of Sydney, Pat Keady, Director of the Emmanuel Community, Dr John Holmes of the Australian Catholic University, Senator Zed Seselja (Liberal, ACT) and Jonathon and Karen Doyle.
* The gifted leadership of the YMG's President, Ben Galea, Brother Dan Serratore MGL and Nick Morgan, who are vital YMG organisers, and the MC, St Edmund's College Canberra House Master, Tom Zinkel, whose witty, inspiring presence gave the Retreat much of its stimulus.
* The glorious spring weather around Stanwell Tops which drew most of the men to the surf beach for swimming, informal "Touch" Rugby and beach soccer on the wide green expanse nearby during the afternoon's free time.
The YMG leaders were congratulated on one of the biggest announcements at the Retreat, that they had arranged a two-year Sponsorship deal with Catholic Super.
The funds from Catholic Super will allow the Young Men of God to establish an office in a central location with a salaried worker to promote the YMG and its ideals to a wider audience.
This announcement before the concluding Mass on the Sunday morning climaxed a successful and spiritually uplifting weekend. There were many expressions of appreciation and an atmosphere of celebration thanks to the key "backroom" leaders, Brother Dan Serratore and Nick Morgan, who did the lion's share of the routine organisation which made the event so memorable.
Contacts and events
Young Men of God website: www.ymgmovement.org and Brother Dan Serratore, email: firstname.lastname@example.org Nick Morgan: email@example.com and Ben Galea (President): (0439) 999-196.
Approaching Events include:
iWitness Conference, 11-14 December 2014, Collaroy Centre, 21 Homestead Road, Collaroy, on Sydney's Northern Beaches. Visit website: www.lifetothefull.com.au or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Youth Leaders Formation Course, 25 November to 20 December, 2014. Details: www.catholicyouthservices.org/ylfc This training course is arranged by CYS of the Archdiocese of Sydney.
Immaculate Mission School, IMS '15, 1-9 January 2015. Sacred Heart Retreat Centre, 35 Wicklow Avenue, Croydon, Victoria, 3136. Web: sistersoftheimmaculata.org.au/ims-2015, email: email@example.com mobile: (0406) 372-608.
Campion College Summer Program, 11-16 January 2015. There are many ways to obtain more details of this live-in experience. Web: Welcome to Campion or firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or Tel: (02) 9896-9300.