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. 

Forming New Partnerships

Catholic Schools Youth Ministry International (CSYMI) is proud to be partnering with the Australian Catholic Superannuation and Retirement Fund (ACS).

“The vision of CSYMI is to is to provide opportunities for students and educators to encounter Christ and his Church. To journey with Australian Catholic Super and have them participate in that vision is a testament to their values, placed within the vision of the Church”.  – Peter Woods. 

Justin Colley, ACS Business Developer Manager, addressed eighty of our young leaders from around Australia at our inaugural Youth Ministry Equipping School in Canberra late February this year. Justin highlighted the importance of personal responsibility in planning for the future and how the ACS aims to walk with it’s members on that journey. It was a positive experience especially for those who hadn’t considered what it means to choose a superannuation fund and what support is provided. 

We appreciate how present Justin and the team at ACS has been to us at CSYMI. Justin plays as a key support role within our partnership. 

Justin, what would you say is the main vision of the ACS in the life of the Catholic Church and beyond?

“To give everybody a dignified retirement. We work everyday to make sure that our members are educated to make informed decisions, to plan for their retirement”

What are your hopes for this new partnership with CSYMI?

“Our hope is to engage younger people. To educate them from a younger age and help them understand the importance of planning for the long term.”

How can people begin the conversation about joining ACS?

“They can join through our web page or contact our call centre. You may also walk into any of our call centres and sign up there too.”

New church leaders formation network to help grow faith in Oceania

A new Church leaders network and formation platform was launched at the Catholic Schools Youth Ministry Australia (CSYMA) Oceania Leaders Training Day on Monday 1 March. Over 150 educators and Church leaders across Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Tonga, and the Solomon Islands participated via Zoom alongside local group gatherings.

The Catholic Leaders Formation Network (CLFN) is the fruit of a partnership between CSYMA and Australian Catholic University (ACU) La Salle Academy. As well as networking Church leaders in similar roles and ministries, the CLFN seeks to build friendships and communities of leaders, called FLAME communities, committed to supporting each other as missionary disciples. The CLFN also offers a range of formation programs to better equip Church leaders as evangelisers responsive in new and creative ways to the signs of the times.

The partnership with ACU and an increasing number of dioceses and schools throughout Australia, Africa, Oceania, and the United Kingdom will enable the new CLFN Network to have a global impact in forming leaders in evangelisation.

The newly developed ACU Spiritus Program is a vital feature of the CLFN and can be conducted as Professional Learning or as units of study in ACU courses. This program is being conducted in 2021 in Brisbane, Melbourne and Tasmania, and Canberra (with national participation). There will also be a Spiritus 2021 Program for England, Scotland and Ireland conducted from April to June by Zoom with online groups and FLAME Communities. The CLFN provides an ongoing formation network for leaders after participating in Spiritus.

In launching the initiative, the Chairman of the Bishops Commission for Evangelisation, Laity and Ministry Archbishop Christopher Prowse, urged leaders to grow in understanding of themselves as “servants of the Holy Spirit”, reminding them that, ‘It is not you, but the Holy Spirit in you who changes people’s hearts. It is only God who can change and transform the human heart.”

In a live Zoom session, ACU La Salle Academy Dean Professor Brother David Hall presented the foundational concept of humility as the driving motivation behind our leadership. Director of Teacher Formation at the ACU La Salle Academy and Founding Director of the CSYMA Mr Peter Woods observed that, “While social media and other digital communication has increased collaboration, Church leaders rarely enjoy the spiritual nourishment and fellowship that can come from journeying together, meeting regularly in small groups for prayer, formation and to share their faith and leadership experience with each other. The CLFN addresses this pastoral need.”

The CLFN also provides opportunities for certified leaders and aspiring leaders trained and formed to facilitate FLAME Communities and formation Programs in their school, parish, or diocese.

Participants commented:
“The day provided our leaders from Fiji formation and the tools to form other leaders in our schools and Church contexts. We are excited about continuing to link with CSYMA, including the CLFN. Our participants, who are mostly education commission leaders from the greater Suva area, are already reflecting on the tools provided by CSYMA so that they can use them in their schools and Parishes.” Nemani Drova, Director Catholic Education, Fiji

“The CSYMA training day was an excellent way to learn with others and experience the regional impact of our community. The highlight for me was feeling connected to educators from many countries seeking to develop a new way of offering the Gospel message and friendship with Jesus to young people.” Brendan Nicholls REC, St Ignatius College Geelong

Membership for individuals, schools, parishes, dioceses, and other Church organisations and can be requested at

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).