News

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.’

New Curriculum Resources

Lidia Galea, Curriculum Project Officer

This year we have been working on a completely updated version of the Youth Ministry and Leadership unit of study, for Year 9 and 10. We have completed a brand new eight-part video series with accompanying lessons, entitled The Leader in You. The new series features a range of presenters who share their knowledge and experience on effective leadership in various contexts. The final episode looks at the example of Jesus’ leadership. The video series and accompanying lessons form the first four weeks of the term-long unit. Term 3 will see the launch of a brand new student booklet for the course, which will include all The Leader in You lessons as well as lesson activities and resources for the entire term. Teachers will be able to access the booklet online and put in orders for printing at the end of Term 2. 

Catching The New Wave

We’ve seen everywhere new strategies and responses amidst the Covid-19 crisis and St. Francis Xavier Secondary College in Canberra is no exception.

Youth Ministers Lachlan Bull and Eoin Garton with the aid of their REC and Ministry teachers have flipped the tables with their Youth Ministry intake, filling four year 9 youth ministry classes next semester. Their method involved visiting all 10 of their year 9 Re classes, running a condensed version of the Catch the Wave Retreat and inviting the students to respond and take a leap of faith.

Eoin said “It was invigorating to see so much interest in the students, we are really excited for the opportunity to interact with them in the coming semester!”

Lachlan said “The students returned to school with such a vigour and eagerness to join the youth ministry classes. The Holy Spirit is truly at work in their hearts.”

We hope this story may provide inspiration and a new incentive for your school circumstance as we are all faced with new challenges!

Lismore Diocese Response to Covid-19

Kate Nestor

Sharing the challenges faced by everyone in recent months, the Youth Ministry Officers (YMOs) in the Diocese of Lismore have come up with some innovative ways to connect and continue their evangelising mission with students while not able to be physically present. Digital ministry has been the big winner as schools with an existing presence develop their strategies and those starting from scratch have found time to explore the potential of these platforms.

With students and school communities engaging with the online digital ministry in new ways, some of our YMOs have been able to use their gift of music to engage their community while others have made fun and engaging videos about life around their school during a pandemic. 

Meanwhile, traditional methods have also made an impact as one school had their YMOs handwrite Easter cards that were posted home to senior students and those in the youth ministry class. What a special surprise it would have been for those students to receive a handwritten message of support in the letterbox and know that they were being thought of by their community. 

In a diocese-wide initiative, a partnership with parishes and the Social Futures organisation was undertaken in a project to connect YMOs with vulnerable and elderly people in parish communities. Training was undertaken through Social Futures to prepare the YMOs as agents of connection within parish communities, focussing on communication via phone calls as well as guidelines and boundaries for making these calls. The role of the parish has been to promote the service while identifying and seeking permission from potential phone call recipients. The program is now underway with support and supervision for YMOs making the calls being provided by the Catholic Schools Office. The fruits of this ministry are promising and its life after the pandemic may be one of those unexpected gifts from God, given to those who seek to honour Him in love and service.

LEAD Training at Lumen Christi, Pambula

Jessica Newell, Youth Minister – Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn

Lumen Christi Catholic College hosted its first LEAD Youth Ministry Team Training, run by Nathan Galea, Huw Warmenhoven, Eileen Reckord and myself.

This was my first LEAD event I had ever been a part of! Overall I felt the day was very inspirational for the students and for myself and I learnt more things that I could implement into my Youth Ministry. This opportunity was offered to the senior leadership team at Lumen Christi, providing direction in their roles at the school after this time of isolation.

Huw Warmenhoven commented on the training, saying that “it is exciting to see the emerging Youth Ministry Team at Lumen Christi bring active faith and service together as they seek to bring the light of Christ into their school community and beyond.”

Throughout the training the message that was heavily emphasised was “what are your gifts that you can bring to your role” & “how you don’t have to have a badge to be a leader”. Coming away from the training a lot of students have had nothing but positive comments about the whole conference.

Youth Minister Bio – Lillian Shone

First Year Youth Minister at MacKillop College, Bathurst.

Growing up as the eldest of eight, with gorgeous number nine due in August this year, fostering youth’s faith formation has always been a passion of mine. 

Having graduated from Mackillop after being extensively involved in the faith life of the College as a senior student, I was looking for a fulfilling opportunity to spend my gap year, after deferring University. The position of Youth Ministering for 2020 at MacKillop was therefore, an opportunity that I was passionate and eager to undertake.

Thus far, my Youth Ministry experience has been and continues to be extremely rewarding and inspiring, for it is the youth that remind me that “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” – Philippians 4:13

Deacon Josh Clayton of the Bathurst Diocese says they are intentional with their focus on formation to their youth ministers. CSYMA has been assisting recently having given online seminars in the area of Youth ministry skills and the CALLED Series with the Youth Ministers and Youth Leaders.

Deacon Josh noted, “The Catholic Diocese of Bathurst has placed a focus on Formation for ministry across the diocese. In relation to youth ministry, we are intentional about what occurs, who facilitates the formation and the outcomes expected. In relation to youth ministry, there is no divide between education, the parish and the diocese, All are working towards our vision for youth ministry.”

Youth Ministers International Program – life changing formation experiences.

The first year CSYMA Youth Ministers conducted their first round of online Tutorials at the beginning of April as a continuation of their ongoing formation in the Youth Ministers International (YMI) Program. The YMI Program began with the CSYMA Equipping School held in Lismore and Canberra in February. Completion of the Equipping School plus online tutorials and assessment contributes to receiving the ACU Signum Fidei program, a work of the ACU La Salle Academy. There are currently 66 Youth Ministers within the YMI network, and 34 of those are first-year Australian Youth ministers, who have all completed the Tutorial aspect of module one. An additional five returning youth ministers will also be continuing their study in the YMI Program. The process of incorporating internationals into the program has begun as we hosted our first New Zealander as well as a group from Tonga (to come later next month), giving us a total of 41 first-year youth ministers in the network and 25 youth ministers who have returned for consecutive years.

The Module one Tutorial on the Life of the Church, with a focus on personal prayer, went exceptionally well. All incoming youth ministers attended from the dioceses of Lismore, Canberra/Goulburn, Sandhurst, Bathurst, Melbourne, and Darwin.

In our tutorial discussion, the youth ministers shared compelling experiences they encountered at the Equipping school, explaining how encouraged they were in their faith and the new skills they had learned to take back into their ministries at home.

 

“It was a time of healing. I took to song writing to express the experiences I was having” – Hannah (Lismore)

 

“I experienced a connection with the Holy Spirit, and I learned how to give a professional testimony.” – Matthew (Bathurst)

 

“I was inspired by hearing more about the lives of the saints. I also encountered a deeper richness to the Sacraments, which manifested vividly for me in the Mass.”– Elena (Canberra)

 

“My God experiences began before I even arrived. My boyfriend sent me a song to listen to on the plane, which also happened to be the theme song of the Equipping school. I was also encouraged by the broader church community and felt confident returning to the ministry back home.” – Joy (Darwin)

 

“I feel more confident now and capable. I particularly took a lot from Brian’s talk on preaching in the Holy Spirit.”– Daniel (Sandhurst)

 

We continue to launch the youth ministers forward in their formation, providing multiple avenues for them to keep experiencing the fullness of the Catholic faith and its traditions, particularly in these unprecedented times. They will incorporate these experiences into their Signum Fidei journals, including the completion of the CALLED series, created by the Catholic Leaders Formation Network.

Evangelisation during Covid-19

By Christopher Gilroy – YMI Coordinator

When I asked myself, “where does Jesus want to meet us today during the Covid-19 epidemic?” I think about the woman at the well. The woman was in her place of solitude and retreat. She was alone and in a place socially distant in the hottest part of the day to avoid others. We notice as we read through the scriptural telling that Jesus was already sitting beside the well before the woman arrived. It was the woman who had to approach Jesus, which reminds us of the non-imposing love of God. I imagine she would have seen him from a distance and felt uneasy, her plans of social distancing by using the heat of the day had fallen through, but her thirst still needed to be quenched. Anxious the woman approaches Jesus, she can see he is a Jew, and she assumes she will be shunned. But what we see is a response of love by Jesus. He enters into her situation and offers the living water that will leave her never to thirst again.

Where are God’s people today? They are socially distant and in their isolation within their homes. They, too, may feel anxious and uneasy. As Christians, we ought to be waiting for them also in a sense, as Jesus was sitting by the well. We have to be ready to respond and offer them Jesus and His life-giving water.

In today’s day and age, it’s safe to assume our young people are spending significant portions of their time in the silence of their room behind a closed door, on their devices. They continue to consume without satisfaction, but we need to step in and quench their thirst with an offer of God’s love. We ought to offer a spiritual drink and a genuine invitation to have a relationship with Jesus and walk with them online using our time and beautiful, excellent, and faithful media resources.

I’ve experienced this in my Youth Minister role. The Canberra/Goulburn Archdiocese produced a fantastic, professionally made Easter reflection resource called Encounter. A colleague and I reached out to three Year ten students and invited them to pray this resource with us daily online for the duration of Holy Week. To my joy, the conversations over the laptop screen flourished, I asked the students to light their candles and set up their prayer space before we would pray, discuss, journal, and meditate. This would often last up to an hour and a half. The professionally produced Encounter resource begins with a great introductory video, a scripture focus, and a reflection. I found that my students more than ever were more receptive to entering into sincere prayer, and having an excellent resource at hand was perfect.

Visiting them in an online chat room in their isolation was stirring within them, a ‘woman at the well’ experience. Jesus was pouring out the Father’s grace in their hearts. Together we would begin to journal, which was when the sincere prayer and reflecting would happen. I would simply ask the students to mute their microphones while I played worship reflection music in the background. Sometimes this lasted up to 20 minutes. The sharing that followed had such profound substance and was entirely centred on Christ in their hearts. On a few occasions, I was moved to tears by their sharing.

Practically after our initial Monday reflection session, we would discuss a mutual time for the next day and meet again online. Every student out of their desire tuned in daily for the entire week. They started posting photos of their prayer spaces on their social media platforms. One student’s photo reached 1000 of her peers, and her friends began requesting to join the prayer group. This action of them sharing gave them courage and affirmation in their faith. They were starting to come to know the heart of Jesus, and they couldn’t help but want to make Jesus known.

We decided to schedule an online youth group for Holy Saturday and invite all the young people in the parish to attend. Two of those students from that prayer group shared their testimonies for the first time speaking passionately and maturely about their relationship with Jesus to their peers.

By the end of the week, each student committed 6 hours of their time to prayer! We need to respond like Jesus in this time of isolation and introduce our young people to that life-giving water that will satisfy the real thirst and desire deeply planted in their hearts by a loving God.