The Australian Catholic Youth Festival ( December 7-9) at SOP is a national gathering of young people established by the Australian Bishops Conference to provide young people with opportunities to deepen their relationship with Jesus, be empowered to be disciples in the world today and encounter and celebrate the vitality of the Church in Australia. It includes plenary sessions, workshops, dialogue spaces, prayer experiences, live music, justice events and much more.
On Saturday I had the privilege of sharing the last day and night of the 3 day/night ACYF with our 100+ Bethlehem pilgrims and their dedicated teachers. The festival attracted over 20,000 young people from all over Australia and offered a huge range of opportunities for the students to connect/ reconnect with their faith through plenaries, masses, live music, prayer, workshops, Q & A sessions, keynotes, and displays from a range of Catholic spiritual and social justice, organisations and charisms. The speakers/ presenters/ performers ranged from Archbishop Anthony Fisher, priests and other religious to academics, social justice groups and Christian musicians. Despite the fact that the young people, their teachers and the SCS volunteer staff were all exhausted after three very full days, there was an extraordinary vibe, energy and generosity of spirit to the event. Our students were wonderful ambassadors not just for their school but also for their faith. They were outstanding in their willingness to engage with every diverse activity. They sang and danced in the venues, moving between venues and would spontaneously break out in song anywhere and everywhere including public transport encouraging friends and strangers alike to join with them. They were responsible, polite, respectful and caring of their peers and their teachers.
The conference finished with a series of pilgrimages around Sydney which all ended at the Domain for the final concert and mass. It was a very warm day, but the girls caught the train from Homebush to Milsons Point where they commenced their pilgrimage in the middle of the day across the Harbour bridge, along the harbour foreshore through the Rocks, past the Opera House, through the Botanical Gardens eventually arriving at The Domain. The mass was beautiful. The setting, the stage, the music, the scripture readings, the Archbishop’s homily and the final fireworks made for a deeply spiritual and memorable event.