Youth Ministers around the Country gather, pray & reflect on 2020

As our year comes to a close, dioceses around the country are gathering their Youth Ministers to give thanks and reflect on 2020. 

November 25-26 the Lismore Diocese Youth Ministry Officers were able to gather as a group after a long while apart in this time of pandemic. They experienced the opportunity to gather, share and pray for each other as well as receive recognition in their ministry by receiving their Signum Fidei certificates. 

The Canberra and Goulburn Archdiocese Youth Ministers gathered for their end of year retreat to reflect on a year in ministry. The retreat commenced with a Mass on Friday the 11th and concluded at Lake Burley Griffin on Sunday the 13th. 
3 images followed the Youth Ministers over the course of the weekend. The first image; the last supper where the youth ministers gathered for Mass, then for a meal together to celebrate and affirm each other. The second image was the mountain top where they reflected on their deepest identity and the person of Christ. The third image was Jesus’ encounter with the disciples at the sea of Tiberias after his resurrection. These outwards signs were comprehensive tools in helping them to slow down and become present with Christ and each other as they recalled their year and discerned how the Lord was calling in holiness and into their vocations.

Huw Warmenhoven the Diocesan Manager for Youth in the Canberra and Goulburn Archdiocese said, 
“The retreat was a moment for all of us to find peace amidst the chaos of 2020. It was inspiring to see a new generation of leaders within our church come into a context of discernment and renewal for their mission. I cannot wait to see where they go in 2021.” 

YMI Youth Ministers on a Year of Mission and Formation

Christopher Gilroy – YMI Coordinator

“By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35) is the scripture that comes to my mind when I think of our Youth Ministers in our schools and parishes across the country and beyond, within the YMI Network. We all know what kind of year we have been up against, but thank God for the hearts that are orientated towards Jesus that flow into our parishes, schools and communities. The Youth Ministers in our network are still going strong and creating waves as they get closer to the conclusion of their year on mission. 

They have just completed the last of their training with the ACU La Salle Academy in the Signum Fidei program with good standard of work and plenty of encouraging stories and experiences of the love of God to share and carry on into the future. All first year Youth Ministers are taken through our Signum Fidei formation program which equips them for a year of mission and evangelisation into our communities. Canberra Youth Minister Maddie Greenwood said, “It was good to dive deeper into the topics that were actually quite relevant to my personal ministry.”

Many youth ministers had great things to say about the the encouragement and inspiration they received from each other in our online gatherings which helped them in their individual ministries. Bathurst Diocese Youth Minister Lillian said, “It was encouraging as a first year youth minister, who is trying to hit the ground running to have the support network of others in the same boat.” 

Youth Minister Daniel from Wodonga Victoria when thinking about his year with his students said it is “fascinating working on the other side of year 12. It’s a wonderful experience witnessing a change in people.” Lismore Diocese Youth Minister Tory Puglisi on his reflection in the YMI network in the context of his school said he “saw the connections from a spiritual basis and practical basis.” 

2020 was tough but our Youth Ministers are tougher! Let’s keep them in our prayers as they finish up this year with our young people and they discern where to next! 

Catch The Wave Success in Geelong

By, Jarryd Atkinson

St. Ignatius College Geelong

What do you do when you are planning for an entire Year 8 Retreat Day with 250 students, and the uncertainty of lockdowns and school closures due to COVID-19 strikes? 

You would be sensible to respond with “postpone it until la…” BUT that is not how we roll here; With the impending Year 9 subject selections for 2021 looming, it was imperative we all seized the opportunity to strike the iron while it was hot, and explore our flexible evangelisation options to deliver the Catch the Wave program to our year 8s across the first week of August. 

A full day on site was intended, designed to pilot the CSYMI Youth Ministry program (Catch the Wave) at St Ignatius College for the first time since development began at the start of the 2020 school year. 

Natural amendments were needed in response to the pandemic, such as needing to deliver the retreat while students were engaged with Remote and Flexible Learning at home. 

Zoom (love it or loathe it) offered a platform to deliver a condensed version of the retreat program, and meant we could offer the program to each year 8 homeroom individually, with 25 students over a 2 period time slot. Now times that by 10 sessions, and we ensure each student is given the same opportunity to engage with the program, and spend some much needed time in discussion, reflection and prayer.

Although the Catch the Wave program was squeezed into a time-frame that was more cramped than a pew at Christmas, students responded by saying they enjoyed the time to participate in small group discussions (Break out rooms) and explore a range of topics that covered self-identity and worth, the basic Kerygma message, mercy and the love of the Creator and how each individual is called to live a life to the fullest. 

When asked what they would take away from the sessions, students responded with: 

“That you are not alone and you always have God who will welcome you back. That when you share light with others you can create light within yourself.”

“That no matter what mistakes you make you will always be welcomed home and that everyone is like a grain of sand, different in their own amazing unique way”

As a result of our incredible year 8 students and the Catch the Wave retreat program, we will have 4 classes and 80 students for the inaugural year of Youth Ministry CSYMI curriculum at Saint Ignatius College (2021). 

As the Youth Ministry Facilitator at Saint Ignatius College Geelong, I thank God for all of the incredible staff and students who enabled the sessions to take place, I thank God for gracing us all with his Spirit, and I pray that the incredible young people of the Saint Ignatius College may come to experience a deeper relationship with You.

CALLED in Isolation – 39 staff further their formation

By, Tania Grace

Aquinas College in Ringwood and St Mary’s College for the Deaf recently embarked on a journey of faith formation using CLFN program Called. Our pastoral minister, Ms Marita Stretch planned out the event to run in the College Chapel, as we had all just returned from isolation, and invited staff to participate. 

Unfortunately Victoria was placed in a stricter, longer lockdown which impacted our plans. However, with creativity and the use of CLFN resources we were able to send out the Called booklets, and through Google Meet, Marita was able to successfully guide the group through the program.

We were thrilled to have 39 staff from across the different faculties enrolled in Called. It led to some interesting discussions and the opportunity to share our thoughts and faith with each other. To be able to still pray together, read and reflect on scripture, even while separated has been a blessing.

In addition, Catholic Education Melbourne granted the program as PL for Accreditation to Teach in a Catholic school which assists both staff new to Catholic Education and helps those already in the system maintain their accreditation.

As we move towards our fifth session, we are excited to hear that there will be two more programs to be added to the staff formation program. We intend to run all programs across 2021 and look forward to knowing that we can run these successfully should we be placed in lockdown again.

Catch the Wave – Plan D

As 2020 continues to unfold, Schools in the Diocese of Lismore, supported by their Youth Ministry Officers (YMOs), have risen to meet the unprecedented challenges of COVID-19 by exploring new ways to deliver the Gospel message. St Joseph’s Regional College Port Macquarie exemplifies this approach with their implementation of the ‘Catch the Wave’ retreat this year. YMOs, Chloe Nash and Amelia Stennett have been instrumental in finding new ways to bring Jesus into students’ everyday life even if it means sharing the Good News one student at a time. As a result, the implementation of the Catch the Wave program this year has evolved into three lesson-based sessions over a four week period.  

Amelia shares: “…taking Catch The Wave into the classroom has been beneficial for them (students)… as opposed to one whole day with 200 plus students in a loud school hall. It’s now in the School Chapel surrounded by their friends and they’re able to Encounter Jesus in a more intimate way…”. 

Every ministry initiative contains its own roadblocks. Some of these include: fighting against the everbusy school timetable, avoiding double booking the School Chapel, and designing a roster for Year 10 Ministry students that aligns with the current NSW Health and CSNSW COVID-19 Guidelines. 

Despite the disruption that current events have brought to the implementation of programs, the ministry opportunities created through this experience are many. Some of these include: creating an intimate experience of faith, allowing students to discern who Jesus is to them over a longer period of time, experiencing youth ministry elements in a classroom and experiencing their YMOs in action and getting to know them better.

Whatever the future brings, even if it is a further change to ministry event plans, God is still intimately involved and remains at the core of all things.

International Impact – England/Wales, Ireland and beyond. CLFN Online Formation Seminars.

Online Formation Seminars have continued to be conducted and have had a substantial international impact. The Catholic Leaders Formation Network conducted their Ireland teacher and leader Formation Seminar on June 25th and England/Wales on July 10. These Seminars included participants from the Philippines, Uganda, Kenya, and Rwanda’. Our Participant Feedback below provides substance to the value of these seminars and their international impact:

This was an excellent refresher that was built on last year’s remarkable gathering. It was really, really wonderful to hear Archbishop Prowse and Brother David speak again; Peter, it was terrific to see you and to gain a more in-depth insight into the programs available. I am very interested in learning how to utilise your program for students in my school through something like Catch the Wave.

I am going to reflect on the idea of ‘Encounter’ as this has helped me to articulate more fully the presence of God in and across our school community.

The clip from Bishop Christopher was great, and to hear from a young person who has experienced Christ is such a good witness.

So many people are coming together united in the same purpose.

The highlight for me was the witness of so many from different parts of our world inspired and interested and able to contribute. I am delighted at this rebirth visible within catholic education, which is so needed for our young people with the decline in attendance to church.

Very inspiring, and yes, it gave me an excellent understanding of a vision that sets out a pathway and especially one through to teaching (which is something we as Hub officers would like to explore).

YMI Youth Ministers RISE to the Challenge

It has been great to see different groups around the country finding ways to bring the love of God to our young people in new adapted ways. It is particularly exciting for us to see how the CSYMA model has been able to help animate these events. The forth phase of the CSYMA model involves a reach into the broader Church and community complimenting the good works already present.

The Bathurst Diocese recently held their annual Rise conference which in the case of YMI Youth Minister Lillian Shone, played a large part in her faith formation and experience of the broader Church. Since then Lillian has been able to give back to the broader community in her work as a Youth Minister across the CSYMA network. 

Lillian has been actively involved in the coordinating of the Rise conference and said: “The prospect of being in a position where I could help create an extraordinary experience like Rise for youth, was one of the prominent reasons I wanted to become a Youth Minister.”

You can read more about the CSYMA 4 phase model in our CSYM Implementation Report in Canberra and Goulburn Archdiocese as well as our Guidelines document. 

Game On! Religious Education Learning Series

– Theresa Corson

Recently I had the pleasure of joining His Grace Archbishop Christopher Prowse, along with Archdiocesan and CSYMA Youth Leader, Huw Warmenhoven in a livestream session aptly entitled ‘Game On’, where we broke open Pope Francis’ recent apostolic exhortation to young people ‘Christus Vivit’.

In particular, we focused on Chapters 4, 5 and 8 of the text, discussing Pope Francis’ ‘great message for all young people’ – namely, the kerygma message of our faith; that God is love, Christ saves us, that He is alive and that through the Holy Spirit we too can come alive in a new way. We talked about the Holy Father’s message to young people; breaking open the unique experience that ‘youth’ is, as a time of hopes, dreams, big decisions, growth, friendship and ‘thirst for life and experience’. In the final section of the discussion we covered the idea of vocation, sharing different experiences of the call to follow Christ. We talked about the difficult task that discerning this important call can often be for young people. 

The livestream participants, ranging from teachers and RECs to youth ministers from across the archdiocese, nationally and even some internationally contributed many insightful comments to the conversation, as well as further prompting the discussion with questions around how we can practically apply Pope Francis’ message in our work with young people.  

As a youth minister at St Jude’s Primary school and in the Parish of Our Lady of the Annunciation in Weston Creek, a personal highlight was simply the opportunity to gain so many insights from such a broad range of people dedicated to and experienced in ministering to our youth. 

Youth Minsters at St. Paul’s are a real witness to faith

Each year, students from St Paul’s Catholic Secondary College, Kempsey graduating class are invited to apply for traineeships at the College.

Four students took up the positions this year, two as Youth Ministry Officers, one as an Aboriginal Liaison Trainee and the fourth as a Sports Trainee. 

The Leader of School Evangelisation at St Paul’s College, Dominic MacAndrews, said that the College has been blessed to have Youth Ministry Officers as part of the team.  

“For the seventh year in a row, we have employed one or two full-time Youth Ministry Officers (known as YMOs),” said Dominic.

The YMOs for 2020, who graduated from St Paul’s last year, are Calissa Denaro and Darcy O’Loughlin.

“The Youth Ministry Officers are passionate about their faith in Jesus Christ and want to share that with the students at St Paul’s,” said Dominic.  

Dominic believes that faith is “caught and not taught” and that the YMOs are young modern-day witnesses to the faith for St Paul’s students.

The YMOs organise retreats and reflection days, Masses and liturgies and assist in Religion classes.  In Term two this year, Calissa and Darcy also spent time with the students at St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School.  

Calissa said they helped Year 4 classes with maths and reading and in Term 3 and 4 they will be working with them and Kindergarten students during religious education classes.  

“Our aim is to provide the primary school students with support in all aspects of their schooling, with a particular focus on making religion more engaging and enjoyable”, said Calissa.

Calissa and Darcy also work with St Joseph’s music students to create a choir to sing at school and weekend masses. 

Dominic said that St Paul’s students are able to see the person of Jesus lived out and through the YMOs.

“Through the presence and work of the YMOs our students are invited to consider their own relationship with God and are supported and encouraged to explore and deepen this relationship,” said Dominic.  

Youth Ministry offers unique opportunity

For Darcy O’Loughlin, who is planning to study for a degree in forensic science, the traineeship as a Youth Ministry Officer has given her the opportunity to learn about the work environment and to further explore her spirituality. 

Calissa Denaro said that she and Darcy are in a unique position to relate to students.

“The students all know us, we’re young, they’re not scared to talk with us, and we know where they are coming from”, said Calissa.  

Calissa plans commence her studies for a teaching degree next year.  

Online Leaders Formation Seminars: an enormous success and international impact

The Online Leaders Formation Seminars that have been conducted by the CLFN have been an enormous hit. They are designed for educational and Church leaders. The two-hour online seminar focuses on a variety of inputs, including keynotes, small groups, personal sharing’s, and videos. The two Seminars conducted so far have been for Melbourne & Tasmania and Canberra Goulburn & Wagga Wagga. Each has had approximately 100 education leaders attend. Please pray for the upcoming Seminars for Ireland (25 June) and England & Wales (10 July). These Seminars replace the International Formation program that was planned for London in July.

Participant highlights for the Online Formation Seminar include:

‘All of it was a highlight. Great explanation of programs and focus on the significance of evangelisation.’

‘Brother David Hall’s address on mission and faith formation and the need to witness to the students in our classes.’

‘Learning about evangelisation and the notion of apostolic imagination where new ways of doing things are now required.’

‘Br David and Gaye – both spoke with a passion but not a passion that comes from being enthusiastic but a passion that comes from the cross into the tomb and then rises to life. Christ HAS Risen! – He truly has Risen!

‘I thoroughly enjoyed the entire program. Perhaps Gaye’s passionate witness and Archbishop Prowse’s enthusiasm. Also the breakouts. I like the opportunity to chat.’

‘Br David’s presentation, such a gifted speaker who is so easy and enjoyable to listen to. The reminder that relationships are key to assist with knowledge and values in faith formation as a school leader is a message we cannot hear enough about. I am also interested in the Spiritus program…I think this study may be a good fit for me in my current role and where I am personally and professionally.’

‘The Keynote which allowed us to consider the implications for contemporary evangelisation. Specific themes and ideas that encouraged us to consider the approach of young people and the role we may be able to play in their spiritual development. The opportunity to reflect on this with colleagues in the Zoom room was much appreciated and allowed us to have some form of connection with others who were participating in the Seminar.’