Asia Pacific Youth Ministry Equipping School

-Luke Maher

The last weekend in February saw 160 participants from across the Asia/Oceania region gather in Canberra for the CSYMI Asia Pacific Youth Ministry Equipping School.

The Equipping School is an intensive formation school that inspires and resources youth, young adults, ministry leaders and teachers (preservice and early career) for the mission of the Catholic Church. Following the Equipping School, participants are given the opportunity to be in a formation pathway and participate in cross cultural mission teams.

There are four streams that run at the equipping school, each with keynote speakers, workshops and small group opportunities catered at the needs for that group. The four streams are ‘Youth Academy’ – high school youth ministry leaders, ‘Signum Fidei’ – ACU Pre-Service teachers and early career teachers, ‘Leaders’ – international and local leaders and the ‘YMI’ – Youth Leaders.

It was a pleasure to welcome to the Equipping School a strong contingent of international leaders from both educational and youth ministry contexts. The international group included James Mafi and his team of Youth Ministry Leaders from Tonga, Stephen Borja from the Episcopal Commission for Youth and a team of teachers from the Philippines, Leon Robertson and Laura Smith from New Zealand, Sr Katarina Tinai and a team of educational leaders from Fiji and Fr Jimmy James and Br Thomas Thankickal from the All India Catholic Schools Association. These international guests brought a wealth of experience and rich expressions of their faith and culture to the Equipping School and they enjoyed sharing this experience with other leaders from across Australia. 

The Equipping School has been running in some capacity for over 10 years and with each year it grows and continues to have a significant impact on those who attend. The comments below, from a range of participants, detail the different ways the Equipping School has had a transformational effect on their faith.

“Earlier this month, I attended the Equipping School Program for 2020, and it was an experience I will not forget. I met some truly amazing, inspirational, and motivational young individuals who are willing to make a difference within the younger generations through their connection with the church. Everyone participated in different activities which explored the themes of purpose, perseverance, selflessness, and how we can be better individuals in society. This program allowed me to become more open minded, accepting and, giving to those around me as well as give me the opportunity to develop a deeper understanding of my own faith.” – Student, Merici College

“I really enjoyed the night-time experiences. During these nights, everyone was so reverent, and it was a beautiful to have been able to participate in these experiences; I was in awe at the sense of community, belonging and acceptance from everyone who attended”. Student, Trinity Catholic College

“It was one of the best decisions I have made to attend the Equipping School. It was truly a life changing experience and I couldn’t have been happier doing it. I made so many new friends who I can share my faith with and gained so many skills I can use in all aspects of my life”. Student, MacKillop College

“It was a really rewarding experience and there were so many different experiences that I had with friends and within my faith. So many of the skills that I picked up during the equipping school were interchangeable between religious and social aspects. I would definitely do it again”. Student, MacKillop College

“I came to the equipping school after being invited by my youth minister. I didn’t have any past experiences with CSYMA outside of school and the experience blew me away. The community, the courses and the faith experiences made me feel at home in a location I’d never been in before and I am so excited to attend future equipping schools and gatherings. The love and sense of community I experienced is something only found in the church”. Student, Mackillop College.

“As a fourth-year education student I really think the Signum Fidei stream has given me opportunities to grow as a teacher and I’ve been able to meet so many great people and it’s through all of those people that I’ve seen the work of the Holy Spirit”. ACU Pre- Service Teacher, Melbourne

“As an early career teacher, I’ve been really unsure about how to integrate Religious Education in a positive way in my classroom. The Signum Fidei stream at the Equipping School has helped me to create a vision for RE in my classroom and the practical skills to implement it”. Early-Career Teacher, Canberra.

“The Signum Fidei stream at the Equipping School has been such a good experience to engage in the faith community, learn a lot and prepare ourselves to evangelise in future missions”. Early-Career Teacher, Brisbane.

“The warmth and welcome of the Equipping School goes hand in hand with its purpose, which is to lead people to encounter Jesus Christ and to then provide them with the tools to go out and share this love of God with all they meet on the journey”. Leon Robertson, Aquinas College New Zealand

“”The Equipping School is an instrument of change in the life of the church now. It’s a pathway where I myself have met the Holy Spirit,  and started on a real journey together.  A pathway that has cleared up my childish mythical view of the Holy Spirit and I’ve come to realise, appreciate and walk with this All-so-powerful persona of the Triune God we worship. 

And about the Equipping School and New Evangelization, to me,  it is  the newest, and I can say the best approach with the New Evangelization today. So spread the words about the wonders the Lord has done through the equipping school,  like for me,  You come in as you are, broken, sinful, etc,  and you draw water endlessly from the spring of salvation. At the end of the Equipping School, you are commissioned,  and you go out full of joy,  well equipped, and ready for battle,  for the Holy Spirit of God dwells in you. You come in a sinner,  break up your bottle of precious oil of repentance, offer it all up to God, for that’s basically all that He wants, (not your degrees or wealth or achievements), then embark on a journey with him, by going out and Set The World On Fire with His Love. The Equipping School is a great opportunity, so support it,  attend it, and don’t be afraid to be a part of it, for where the Spirit of the Lord is,  there is freedom” James Mafi, Youth Coordinator Tonga