Spiritus Fires up Catholic Teachers, Ministers & Leaders in Australia & Beyond

Over recent months, Spiritus has provided a unique faith formation program for over 250 education and other Church ministry leaders from England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland and from the Australian archdioceses of Brisbane, Melbourne and Hobart. A program will soon begin for teachers and leaders in Canberra and Goulburn, Wagga Wagga and Wollongong.

The Spiritus Program includes two parts (1) Faith Formation and the New Evangelisation; and (2) Creating Centres of the New Evangelisation: Catholic Schools, Parishes and Church Ministries. Each session included dynamic presentations, reflections, small groups and practical implementation workshops.

Peter Woods, Director of Teaching at the ACU’s La Salle Academy said,

‘Spiritus is firing up school and other Church leaders across their respective dioceses and countries, equipping them for evangelisation in our contemporary context. I thank God for what the Holy Spirit is doing in and through the Spiritus program.”

Spiritus is conducted by the Australian Catholic University La Salle Academy and is a flagship program of the Catholic Leaders Formation Network (CLFN), a fruit of the collaboration between the ACU and Catholic Schools Youth Ministry Australia. For the first time, Spiritus was hosted on the CLFN’s new online professional network and formation platform at www.clfn.org. This allows Spiritus and other CLFN programs to be offered in one of several learning modes ranging from face to face, online or in mixed mode. 

The program offered in the United Kingdom and Ireland also featured small faith groups called FLAME Communities who met together for six sessions in between the Spiritus Core sessions, to pray, reflect and converse together as part of the ‘Called’ program. 

Participants expressed not only their personal appreciation for the opportunity to be renewed in their faith and vocation but reported on school initiatives that had arisen in response to a renewed vision and sense of the school’s mission.

“It has been a privilege and such an enriching, nourishing experience… May the Holy Spirit continue to blaze in and through us all.” (Connie)

“We all have to be braver and more courageous and step into action and be evangelists.” (Rob)

“One of the most lasting memories I’ll take from the program is seeing the principles of evangelisation being put into practice and lived out…. I personally feel empowered to continue to participate in the evangelising mission that is the church… the church of Jesus Christ.” (Martin)

Greg Wilson

First Certified CSYMA Educator and CLFN Leader

Liz Keogh has been teaching Religious Education for over forty years in England, Canada and Australia. She has served in various school leadership roles with responsibilities ranging from the coordination of religious education, faith and mission and pastoral care.

Liz exudes a passion for learning and formation. Last year, she finished a Masters in Character Education from the University of Birmingham. Her dissertation was on the impact of Catholic School Youth Ministry Australia (CSYMA) on the development of character through the Christian virtues of respect, courage and service. 

Her commitment to the vision and aims of CSYMA began with participation in a CSYMA conference in 2012. Mount Lilydale Catholic College is the third school where Liz has implemented the CSYMA Four-Phase Model of youth formation and ministry.


Liz believes young people are hungry for a belief in someone or something – someone she knows as Jesus Christ and something she knows and treasures as her Catholic Faith. CSYMA provides Catholic school leaders and educators with an amazing opportunity to help young people explore their faith and life experience and to be encouraged on their faith journey in a nurturing classroom environment.

“I have seen entire school cultures change, where having faith is no longer something to hide and where young people take ownership and responsibility for being explicit witnesses to following Jesus and being proud of the school’s Catholic Identity.”  

In 2021, CSYMA in collaboration with the Australian Catholic University, launched a new online network and formation platform called the Catholic Leaders Formation Network. The CLFN is a professional formation network for leaders in Catholic schools, parishes, dioceses and other organisations engaged in evangelisation. It brings together Catholic educators and other Church leaders to be renewed and formed in their faith and be equipped to lead formation in small faith-based groups or FLAME Communities. 

Since 1 March, over 450 school and Church leaders from Australia, the United Kingdom, Oceania and Africa have become members. The CLFN is now hosting international professional learning and formation programs such as Youth Ministry Equipping Schools, An Introduction to the CSYMA, Spiritus, Called and Essentials for Faith Leadership. These programs serve to build the confidence and capacity of Catholic educators and leaders. 

The CLFN now also recognises the critical work of Catholic educators and Church leaders like Liz Keogh as it calls them to exercise leadership within the CLFN, supporting the implementation of CSYMA in other schools and the formation of leaders in small groups called FLAME Communities. These Communities meet regularly for prayer, formation, sharing and reflection together, supporting one another in the leadership and service to which they have been called.

Liz is the first to be certified as a CSYMA Educator and CLFN Leader. For more information on the CLFN and what it offers go to www.clfn.org or contact cathleadformnet@gmail.com 

Youth Ministers Connect with the Broader Church

Youth Ministers have a critical role in CSYMA partner schools to bring God’s love to our young people. They have a unique ability to walk closely with our students on their spiritual journey and connect with them in fun and engaging ways. 

Amidst growing ministries, the Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn has initiated further support structures for its Youth Ministers through the integration of a mentoring framework that matches them to Catholic professionals which provides another layer of support. 

Huw Warmenhoven, Manager for Youth within the Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn says,

“The Youth Minister model bridges school with parish. We are excited to see a further collaboration between the two, with the help of our mentors. It’s wonderful to see the broader Church community playing a more active role in the lives of our young people by the means of supporting our Youth Ministers.”

An advantage of the CSYMA model continues to be in it’s ability to support a pathway for students, youth ministers and educators to engage and collaborate with the broader Church.

CSYMA Students & Youth Ministers Bridging Schools and Parishes


Over the past few weeks Year 10 CSYMA students from MacKillop College and St Stanislaus College in Bathurst, facilitated both Year 3 and Year 6 Primary school retreats, these days play an important part in the faith formation of the young students.

On Friday the 7th of May, over 200 Year 3 students came together at Mackillop College to learn more about the Sacrament of the Eucharist. Through song, dance, games and religious instructions the students were able to dive deeper into their faith as they prepare to undertake the Sacrament of the Eucharist. Year 6 students came together on Friday the 28th of May to learn more about the Sacrament of Confirmation at St Stanislaus’ College. The Year 10 leaders worked hard throughout both days, engaging the Year 3 and 6 students in fun-filled and informative activities. 

Lillian Shone, Youth Minister


Here at St Johns College Dubbo, we have started to run a weekly ‘youth group’ event called Alpha Youth. This program invites students from year 8 through to year 11 to share a meal, make new friends from different year groups, and talk about the big questions of life in an honest, friendly and open environment. The first week of this program was a whole load of fun, laughter and thought provoking discussion. Overall, the students that joined us for this program thoroughly enjoyed it.  

Lisa Joseph, Youth Minister

SHINE Conference Leaves an Impact on 350 Students

On Friday the 28th of May St. Peter’s Catholic College and their Youth Ministry Team hosted their third annual SHINE Catholic Youth conference. Hundreds of students from around the Diocese travelled to St. Peter’s to take on the journey of both enlightenment and faith development. 

The day started with a series of powerful songs by Australia’s very own Fr Rob Galea who found the time to fly from Melbourne to perform for the Youth of Broken Bay on this special occasion. 

After a presentation from the CSYMA (Catholic Schools Youth Ministry Australia) team, there was more singing and prayer featuring all time Catholic classics. The day then took a short break, in which students from nine different Catholic schools across our Diocese took the opportunity to make some new friends.

Then came one of the main features of the day – workshop groups. These workshops and classes varied in topics and content however they all centred around the development of faith in our youth. 

Some of these workshops included Dance in Youth Ministry (run by St. Peter’s very own Miss Sarah Heywood, Vinnies Volunteering, Science vs Religion (run by St. Peter’s very own Miss Kate McMahon), Authentic Catholic faith as a young person (run by St. Peter’s Alumni and Youth Minister St Patrick’s East Gosford, Jaimi-Lea Andrews), Music, Drama and leadership (run by the CSYMA team from Canberra).  

After two successful workshop sessions and another short break, everyone met back in the hall to truly unpack their faith with a chapter of highly emotional and truly enlightening testimonies, presented by St Peter’s students Shannon Clark and Anthony Iacovazzi. 

Towards the end of the experience, our Bishop, Anthony Randazzo, sat down with the 350 students present and spoke about his own experiences with God and the significant role religion played in his life, as well as how he got to where he is today.  

At the conclusion of SHINE, every teacher and student attending the experience left with their own beautiful jar of blessed (by Bishop Anthony) holy water, with which they could use in prayer as needed. 

Throughout the entire day, the students were surrounded by teachers and role models who were all there with one intention in mind; development of moral and spiritual integrity and a deeper understanding of their Catholic faith in our Catholic Diocese of Broken Bay.

A huge thank you to the following people whom SHINE could not have happened without their support, faith and assistance; to Bishop Anthony Randazzo; Mr Tim Hildebrandt (Principal St Peter’s); PJ Almendras (Catholic Youth Broken Bay) Michelle Chahine and Father Stephen Wayoyi (Catholic Vocations Broken Bay); Mr Ian Judge (Entertainment Teacher St Peter’s); Christopher, Christian and Anh, CSYMA Team (Archdiocese Canberra & Goulburn); Mrs Kelly Paget  (Executive Officer, Office of the Bishop); The Vinnies Broken Bay Team; Miss Sarah Heywood and Miss Kate McMahon (Religious Education / Dance / Science Teacher’s St Peter’s); Mr Steven Hopley (REC St Peter’s); Youth Ministry Co-ordinators from all our Catholic Schools in Broken Bay; and Alex Leach (Catholic Youth Broken Bay.)

Thank you sincerely to Mr Michael Tobin, Youth Ministry Co-ordinator and SHINE Co-ordinator, St Peter’s Catholic College, Tuggerah and our Youth of Broken Bay.

Victoria Tracey Youth Ministry Team Leader Year 11, St Peter’s Catholic College.

Opportunities for Sisterhood & Brotherhood at St John’s Woodlawn

For St John’s College Woodlawn, 2021 has been a year of blessing, with the gift of having three Youth Ministry Officers (Natasha, Emerson and Jacob). As a result of having three YMOs, our college is acknowledging the need and passion for having youth within the school preaching the Gospel and inspiring people to live a life in relationship with Christ. 

Mission is at the heart of what we, as YMOs, strive to achieve. Our role is to meet the students where they are in their faith journey. We have to understand that everyone is at different stages in this journey. Some students haven’t opened their hearts or minds to the possibility of having a relationship with God, yet we accept them for who they are, and still make sure that they know that they are loved and worthy. At the heart of all we do is to ensure that our students are treated with dignity and respect as unique children of God. Although there are many students who are still finding their faith, we are blessed enough to have a strong group of students who are craving more, and are searching for more purpose in their lives. We are so thankful to the YMOs who have come before us. They have paved a path that we are able to walk on today. They have ignited a spark in the students, and it is now up to us to accommodate those students, and lead a deeper and more intentional ministry for them. 

This is now being achieved through the formation of Brotherhood and Sisterhood sessions that run once a week over the lunch breaks. Both groups include students who were identified as committed to ministry, were people who we thought demonstrate high moral standards, have a desire for a deeper faith or have a need for more time with like-minded people in their life. We did this, because we wanted to create a space where people could come as they are and feel welcome and safe to share whatever they wanted. For now, we are starting small, but as time continues, we hope to extend the invitations of Brotherhood and Sisterhood groups to all students. 

Being the first year that Woodlawn has ever had a male YMO, we have been wrapped with the fact that we have had 12 young men, of whom we saw as valuable assets to the brotherhood. To our delight, after sending out invitations to each of these boys, they all accepted with enthusiasm. It was amazing to see some of the boys who can be ‘spirited’ in class, or find school to be a drag, being the ones who were the most enthusiastic to join and be a part of something bigger than themselves. Brotherhood has been designed to allocate 10-20 minutes at the start of each session for a mentorship talk, with the remainder of the session consisting of various activities such as; basketball, soccer, handball or just casual conversations and movies. The theme for Term 2 has been based around what it means to be a man in today’s society, and how we can be men of God. We have looked into Men of the Bible, and currently use St John the Apostle as our ‘mascot’. 

Similarly, we were blessed in being able to invite 18 girls to be a part of our sisterhood. Similar to the boys, every invitation was accepted by the girls with great enthusiasm. The girls have even asked for the meeting days to be changed, so that they can all attend without others having to go to other various school meetings. Our sisters represent an age range of 14-18 years of age.  We have also been fortunate enough for the word of the ‘Sisterhood’ group to spread, to the point where students are approaching us in the hallways, asking to be a part of such an amazing opportunity. This term, sisterhood has been based around the figure of Our Lady of Guadalupe. We chose to break up her story and focus our sessions once a week on a different part of the story such as doubting, beauty, pain, faith and belief. Each one of these sessions has been explained and developed so the YMO girls share an honest testimony about themselves on said topic in order to allow the girls to witness the depth of their faith and their courage at being open, honest and engaging. 

So far, we are pleased with how these sessions are running, and we aim to continue the sessions for the remainder of 2021. We will also look to discuss and evaluate ways in which to improve after each term.  We believe that this will be an effective way of ministering to students, as they become more comfortable with their peers and willing to share more of their own faith experiences. Overall, we hope that the students are able to know that they are worthy and loved by Jesus Christ, and that we can leave our own mark on the faith journey that Woodlawn is on.

Emerson, Bianca and Jacob

Youth Ministry Officers, St John’s College Woodlawn

Helping our Blokes Get Real

Here at St Mary’s Catholic College in Casino, we identified a need for an all men’s group in order to get the young men at our school talking about more than just what they did on the weekend. 

We came up with a new initiative called ‘Blokes Get Real’. The group is open to all male students and male staff who act as adult mentors. Each meeting starts with sharing a meal together, then sitting down and having a chat about a range of topics such as, Greatest Sporting Moments, Mentors, Role Models and general life outside of school. After this we tune into the NRL’s Friday Night Footy fixture while having snacks, a few soft drinks and plenty of banter. 

Our initial ‘Blokes Get Real’ meeting attracted 7 students which then doubled to 14 for our second meeting. 

We hope that by offering this activity and building a community, a ‘Brotherhood’, we will enable the young men at our College to be open, honest and ‘real’ with each other, their mates, and their families. We believe that by breaking down the barriers that young men put up, we can start to remove the stigma around men speaking up. 

Daniel Pouloudis & Theo Scholl 

Youth Ministry Officers, St Mary’s Catholic College Casino.

Port Macquarie Secondary Students Lead the Way in Year 6 Retreat

On the 21st of May, 18 Year 9 and 10 students from St Joseph’s Regional College, Port Macquarie (SJRC) supported 60 Year 6 students from St Joseph’s Primary Wauchope and St Joseph’s Primary School Laurieton on their Incitare Retreat. The Retreat was held at the school in Laurieton. The Ministry students ran ice breaker games, led small groups, participated in games and gave personal testimonies. These students dedicated time to preparing for the day, learning how to facilitate games and how to lead small group discussions. Many of the Yr 9 students had not participated in youth ministry events previously but all agreed how wonderful an opportunity it was and are now keen to attend SHINE in Term 3 and continue to work in ministry. The students were ably supported by the two YMOs from SJRC Emily Burg and Matt Strumolo, as well as RE Teacher Kathryn Gill. An email from Dane Seymour from St Joey’s Wauchope captured the success of the ministry initiative…

“Just wanted to thank you for your support of our Incitare student day today. The 9/10 students that supported the day were fantastic ambassadors for the College. The way they led and encouraged our students in a really authentic way was so nice. The YMOs, Matt and Emily, were also really influential and took great initiative within the day. These opportunities are really special for our students. Thanks for making it happen!

– Timo Gobius

Historic first meeting of Catholic Schools Youth Ministry International

On Tuesday, 13 April 2021 representatives from Australia, Fiji, New Zealand, the Solomon Islands, Uganda and the United Kingdom met by Zoom for the first meeting of Catholic Schools Youth Ministry International (CSYMI).

Catholic Schools Youth Ministry Australia (CSYMA) began in 2003 as a response to a growing conviction of Peter Woods, then Religious Education Coordinator at St. Edmund’s College Canberra. As a teacher extensively involved in running student retreats and voluntary co-curricular discipleship groups for many years, Peter wanted to offer something more for students wishing to engage further in Catholic formation and ministry. 

Peter decided to tackle this issue by developing a voluntary follow-up unit of study in Religious Education after the Year 11 retreat program. At the conclusion of the retreat, an academic unit of study in youth ministry, with a robust catechetical approach, was offered to students. Two classes of boys volunteered for the program. After the boys had been through this unit of study and moved into Year 12, they had the opportunity for further formation and commitment by becoming senior youth ministry team members.

As Peter and colleagues reflected upon what was happening, they discerned a model of evangelisation developing and called this “The Four-Phase Model”. Eventually, they moved this model down to Years 9 and 10 as they realised this opportunity needed to be presented to students at an earlier age. Since 2007, CSYMA developed three main focus areas: student ministry (Youth Ministry and Junior Ministry), post-school youth ministers (Youth Ministers International), and teacher and Church leader formation (Catholic Leaders Formation Network).

The original program developed by Peter and colleagues such as Nathan Galea at St. Edmund’s College Canberra, has now been adopted by over 60 secondary schools across Australia. Nathan now works as a Project Officer with Catholic Education, leading the implementation of CSYMA in the Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn. Huw Warmenhoven, one of the first students to benefit from this formation and ministry pathway at St. Edmund’s, has been instrumental in developing an international network of youth ministers. CSYMA has been adapted for use in the formation of students, staff and youth ministers in the Lismore Diocese under the leadership of Matt de Dassel. The Lismore implementation has been a model in other parts of Australia. CSYMA Youth Ministers are formed and trained in Youth Ministry Equipping Schools to work with teachers in forming school students. Annual Shine and LEAD gatherings are also a highlight of CSYMA.

A wonderful partnership with the Australian Catholic University La Salle Academy (ACULSA) and generous sponsors such as the Australian Catholic Superannuation and Retirement Fund has proved critical to the success of CSYMA. 

CSYMA continues to respond creatively to the promptings of the Holy Spirit as it now extends new formation opportunities and resources into Primary schools and launches a new Catholic Leaders Formation Network online platform providing supportive small group-based FLAME Communities and Programs offering formation opportunities. The CLFN is a partnership work between CSYMA and the ACU la salle Academy.

Over recent years, the vision of CSYMA has become international with interest and initiatives in Fiji, New Zealand, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, Uganda and the United Kingdom. International cross-cultural missions to Uganda, for example, resulted in the establishment of Catholic Schools Youth Ministry Uganda (CSYMU). In 2017, the first East African Teacher Formation Conference was held in Masaka, Uganda bringing together hundreds of teachers and leaders for formation and to provide the opportunity to receive training in Youth Ministry and the Four-Phase Model. March this year saw training offered to over 150 school and ministry leaders throughout Oceania. 2021 will also see over 140 Catholic school and ministry leaders from England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland completing the 12-week Spiritus (ACULSA) and Called (CLFN) Programs.

As representatives from Africa, Europe and Oceania gathered with Peter Woods, Founding Director, and other CSYMA Board members, for this historic first meeting of the CYMI Executive it was a conviction of all gathered that this represented yet a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit, a new response to the Great Commission of Christ. Looking back to its humble origins at St Edmunds, these words from Acts clearly resonated, ‘It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses … to the ends of the earth.’ (c.f. Acts 1-4)

Youth Ministry Equipping Schools 2021

The CSYMA Youth Ministry Equipping Schools (YMES) continue to be a pivotal tool to form and equip youth minsitry leaders around Australia. In early February, the Lismore Diocese conducted their Equipping School for their local context. The Canberra & Goulburn Archdiocese hosted the Youth Ministry Equipping School for the Oceania region. Due to Covid-19, it could only host national participants. The ACU La Salle Academy is a key partner with the Schools and send pre-service education students to participate.

The 2021 Youth Ministry Equipping School’s had three main streams; Youth Ministers, Pre Service Teachers & Early Career Teachers. Here is how some participants described the experience:

Carlee Tonkin, a Pre-Service Teacher studying at ACU, said,

“Being from ACU, it was a bit of a different experience. I didn’t know what to expect entering into the Equipping School. I feel I’m in a better place going forward into my teaching career”.

“Our team got close. That was groovy. The Equipping School has changed my view to a much better position to minister to students at my school.”

– Ella Ippaviz: Port Macquarie (Lismore Diocese)

“Being called to evangelise was the big thing I took from it. I didn’t understand evangelisation, but coming out of it, it clicked. I developed a deeper understanding of God’s love and what we are called to do.” 

– Winston Neville: Lithgow (Bathurst Diocese)

“After the few night sessions, journeying through the faith and exploring what my role is as a youth minister, really propelled my enthusiasm for my school ministry.”

– Joseph Murray: Archdiocese of Canberra & Goulburn

“It was inspiring to see how so many leaders around our Archdiocese and beyond come to one place. It sparked a new fire in me.”

– Anh Tran: Youth Minister (Archdiocese of Canberra & Goulburn)

The fruits of the Youth Ministry Equipping Schools will continue to unfold. We look forward to providing more opportunities for Leaders to be formed and equipped for the New Evangelisation.