Australian Catholic Youth Festival Perth

By Christopher Gilroy

What is the Spirit Saying?

It was a real blessing to have spent a pilgrimage from Canberra to Perth for the Australian Catholic Youth Festival with an awesome group of young Catholics on fire for the faith! On Dec 7th Archbishop Christopher Prowse and his 12 pilgrims (I think we can call us his disciples?) from the Canberra Goulburn Archdiocese embarked on a spiritual journey to discover what the Holy Spirit is calling us to as a young Catholic Church here in Australia. As a group we wanted to take this question seriously, hence multiple gatherings in the lead up to pray and be formed and prepare ourselves to hear God’s whisper into our hearts. 

I personally experienced moments of deep joy as I witnessed God at work through his children. 

On day three of the festival I was able to take part in praying with a young girl from Melbourne who made her Confirmation! She had a profound experience of the love of God which helped her realise she truly belonged in the Catholic Church which Christ founded. This young girl chose Joan of Ark as her confirmation saint who I feel is a fitting and appropriate role model of fortitude that we need as a Church today. 

I was able to have conversations with fellow pilgrims as they shared their personal struggles, hopes, fears and joys. My heart was moved to hear of the discernment of a young teenage woman in our group who expressed her deep love for Jesus and desire and to enter the religious life. I too had opportunities to share the gift of my vocation as a young married man and allowed the Holy Spirit to use me to express the Father’s love and hopes for us to strive for good holy marriages. 

I attended a talk by Katie McGrady, a young married woman and mother of one from the States who spoke of the motherhood of Mary. I laughed, I learned and I cried (manly tears). Katie allowed us to experience and be part of her relationship with Mary, which in my own heart increased the closeness and devotion I already have to her Immaculate Heart. 

I was able to collect my thoughts on the pilgrimage walk on the final day, to pray the rosary and reflect on what the Holy Spirit was saying to me in my life and to our Church. I put aside my own personal thoughts and perceptions and honestly asked God what he was saying and I stopped and listened. “Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10

I was one of the five young people chosen to share these thoughts at the final plenary before the concluding Mass in front of the 6000 young people in attendance. I am convicted in my heart that the Holy Spirit is asking us to enter into deep dialogue with our brothers and sisters in Christ and to truly listen to their pains, hopes, fears and joys. We must listen with the ear of Christ and not be absent from the presence of God when we listen, but rather be united to the will, truth and love of God. We need to lean back into God and realise we’re created in His image, and not create God in our own image. I shared with the youth of Australia on stage my intention to take these real experiences of the presence of God in my life home with me back to Canberra and invited them to do the same, before directing them towards my key message and that is that the Father is calling us to have a Marian faith. God desires for us to love our Blessed Mother, the mediatrix of all graces. He wants us to love her and have a relationship with her and allow her to teach us who her son really is. Mary knows Jesus intimately and fully and she knows she is created in the image and likeness of God.

Mary teach us to be humble, kind, compassionate, merciful and courageous like you.

Mary help of Christians; pray for us. 

Christopher Gilroy,

YMI Coordinator


New Zealand Mission – Monica Culas

A trip to Aotearoa, “land of the long white cloud”- Taking that leap of faith through the long white cloud 

Imagine having to travel to a land you have never been to, yes that sounds exciting; for some. Now imagine having to travel to various primary and secondary schools in that land to engage them in a concept that may not sit well with everyone- God and His love for all of us. Couple this with the fact that I did not really know the people with whom I was journeying with, and I was a complete nervous ball of wreck inside. Well, this was my experience. When I first got asked to do the Catholic Schools Youth Ministry Australia (CSYMA) mission trip to New Zealand, I honestly thought it was going to be a total waste of my time and that I should not even bother in the first place. I still signed up for it as I felt bad that not many people were going. The entire journey from Australia to New Zealand I was thinking to myself that this was just going to be a nerve wrecking experience and that nobody would understand me with my Singaporean accent; I am from Singapore. 

But alas, our God has funny plans sometimes. Our first host family was the Vice Principal of Aquinas College and I am grateful for her driving us around to all our destinations especially the faraway ones which took us more than an hour, sometimes 3 hours! As the days went by, I found that the students were very much interested in talking to me despite me thinking they would not because of my different accent. It was funny how many of them have been to only the Singapore airport for a layover. I grew more comfortable in meeting with the students and sharing in front of them. I definitely grew more confident. I got to hear real stories from them, and my perceptions were widened from these engagements. I learnt about others’ personal experiences relating to God, even those who did not believe in Him. I cherish those conversations I had as I got to see how each person viewed this same world with a different pair of lenses. 

The defining moment of this mission trip was bonding with my colleagues as that was the major factor that gave me the added push to be confident. Since I am relatively new to Canberra, this proved to be especially significant for me. All our van prayers, good ol’ banter, and meals shared are things I keep close to my heart. Add to this the fact that one of them, Christopher Gilroy, made it his own personal ‘mission’ (no pun intended) to source for me a middle name as I don’t actually have one and he seemed to find it absurd and unheard of. In our final days, he arranged a Kiwi- Maori family to gift me with a middle name. Mikaere, or Mike as we called him, gave me the name Koha. Koha meant gift, but not just any gift. It was something you would present and place at the foot of royalty with your body bowed, following which you stepped back while maintaining the bowed posture, following which the royalty receives it. This was a very poignant moment for me because of the fact that I am quite literally a royal gift to my parents as they were unable to bear a child for some years. This trip definitely had its personal touch for me, something which I will hold dear. It is to the point that I have adopted Koha into my actual name. Monica Koha Culas, and what are the odds that it even has a nice ring and rhyme to it. 

In the words of Disney’s Moana’s “You’re Welcome”, “You’re face to face with greatness, and it’s strange you don’t even know how you feel.” I quite literally have got no words to describe this strange, rather monumental trip in my life. Here is to more missions and anything else I am called to do, minus my old fear of meeting new people.  

Monica Koha Culas

Canberra Goulburn Illuminate Gathering 2019

On Friday November 8, for the very first time, over 300 excited year 5/6 students from 8 Catholic primary schools involved in the second phase of the Youth Ministry CSYMA Jnr Pilot gathered at St Vincent’s Primary School for “Illuminate” student Conference . 

Illuminate is part of the growing and evolving faith formation pathway in youth ministry within our Catholic schools and Parishes that is focused on working with year 5 and 6 students.

The day was lead by Archdiocesan Youth Minsters who alongside of Priests and other diocesan leaders and Catholic Agencies coordinated a number of interactive workshops. These numerous activities became a real highlight for the students as it provided them with a hands on and practical experience of faith, a particular way of learning and expressing faith that is characteristic of Youth ministry.

Archbishop Christopher Prowse affirmed the joy of the youth there and introduced the theme of the gathering and reminded the young ones that they have a special job as the Church of Now and are called to illuminate the world around them with the light of Christ.

Sarah Larkin, a youth minister at St Vincent’s Primary School and South Belconnen Parish said,

“I really loved seeing all of the students at my school mingling with the other students and seeing how excited they were at the event. I couldn’t wait to see them afterwards and at school next week to touch base and reflect on the experience with them and see how encouraged they felt about their faith.”

Nathan Galea Project Officer for the New Evangelisation within Catholic Education office and  Coordinator of the event said “

In an age where our young ones aren’t in our parishes and many families are disengaged from the Church, Illuminate, reflected the power of what can be achieved when we work together to live out the joy of the gospel. The CSYMA jnr model provides a great framework for students to deepen in their faith and encounter Jesus through the very best of our Catholic Faith. 



Youth Minister Profile – Elise O’Callaghan

By Elise O’Callaghan

Hey, my name is Elise O’Callaghan and I am a Youth Minister in the Lismore diocese and I work at Mt St Patrick College in Murwillumbah. I’m currently 18 years old and am loving life living in Kingscliff with my family! 


Being a Youth Minister for the Lismore Diocese and my school has been a dream come true!! It’s honestly the best job in the world. Being able to build so many amazing relationships with students, teachers and parishioners all while being able to share my passion for my religion and faith. I was called into being a Youth Minister to ultimately share the love Jesus has for us with everyone I encounter, to help students, not only on their faith journey but on their journey of life and through everything that school and life throws at them!


So far, an amazing part of being a Youth Minister, means that I get to meet with my Senior Youth Ministry Team  every week. This is where we plan events within our school, hang out, pray together and just talk with each other about everything and anything.  Something as simple as this is so rewarding and brings me and the students so much raw fulfillment and joy in life, which just highlights the importance of the role as a Youth Minister in any school and diocese. 


As my year as a Youth Minister at ‘Patties’ continues I hope I can continue to grow the connections I have made with the students to really impact upon their life and faith journey’s. And for those students who aren’t particularly interested in religion, perhaps spark a sense of curiosity. I’m excited to watch the students I surround myself with flourish and become disciples of Jesus within our school community and within their own lives!

Curriculum Renewal

By Lidia Galea

2019 has flown by as quickly as any other year, and once again, we find ourselves suddenly facing final exams, graduations and end of year celebrations. It has certainly been a busy year on the Curriculum Renewal front, and there have been many exciting developments.

The year began by taking stock of the 2018 curriculum review recommendations and working out the best way forward in terms of a plan to implement them. After teacher consultation, we launched straight into the project that required the most extensive work – and that was the Catch the Wave and Introduction to Youth Ministry units for Year 9 and 10 students. While we had a strong foundation to work with, it was clear the materials required a new look, more relevant content and some fresh faces. We now have a completely new and updated student work booklet, which includes over 30 new student activities and reflections, as well as optional mini-projects for the purpose of student extension. The corresponding video series has also been completely updated – drawing on some of the solid content from the original series, as well as the addition of new speakers, subjects, design work and a catchy new theme song to boot!

On a personal level, it has been an enjoyable and informative process, especially in terms of getting to know the youth ministers and the students in schools who are past or current participants in the Catch the Wave course. Over the course of the project so far, I have been reminded of the deep faith of young people as well as having been inspired by their youthful curiosity, enthusiasm and honesty; all a good reminder of why we do what we do in this space.

The curriculum renewal process is still very much a work in progress, and we now look ahead to the next stage which will be to update the Year 10 and senior units.


Fiji Times – South Pacific Equipping School 2019

Annually held in Canberra Australia, Montfort Boys Town is hosting the first South Pacific Youth Ministry Equipping School.

The Archdiocese of Suva and the Archdiocese of Canberra Goulburn and Catholic Schools Youth Ministry Australia is running the event. Catholic Education director Nemani Drova’s visit to the Oceania Youth Ministry Equipping School and the ongoing effort of the Archdiocese of Suva to trim teachers and youth workers inspired him to work with his Catholic partners in Australia to hold the event in Fiji. “My two visits Australia to attend the Oceania Youth Ministry Equipping School renewed and inspired me with a vision for youth evangelisation in Fiji,” Mr Drova said.

The four day event, which began last Saturday and ends today aims to equip youth workers with skills when teaching and reaching out to the youth population he said.

“The focus on formation for mission with contemporary student, staff and parish youth ministry models provides a wonderful opportunity to be equipped for mission in our church in Fiji,” he said. Father Joe Tumavule, adviser on the way forward for the religious education seminar, said efforts had been made in the past to make schools be more holistic in teachings.

“There’s a real effort the past that the church always tried to maintain a good integration, a balance between the academic and spiritual teachings,” Mr Tumavule said.

Tonga and Samoa are the other two countries that took part in the school. Equipping youth workers across the region is the schools main aim, South Pacific Youth Ministry Equipping School co-ordinator Peter Woods said.

“The focus of the Equipping School is to train teachers ad leaders in Catholic education and to encourage our schools to be Catholic in character, especially to engage young people into the mission of the Catholic church which is t share the love of Jesus with other students and staff in our Catholic Schools,” Mr Woods Said.


Catholic Schools Youth Ministry International, is excited to see what is ahead for the Catholic education in Fiji and we look forward to continue to build this relationship.

Youth Minister Profile – Sarah Larkin

By Sarah Larkin

My name is Sarah Larkin and this year I returned as the Youth Minister working at St Vincent’s Primary School, Aranda, St Matthew’s Primary School, Page and the South Belconnen Parish. 


I am currently 20 years old and I have lived in Canberra most of my life. Alongside youth ministry I am also in my 3rd year studying a double degree in paramedicine and nursing at the Australian Catholic University. Last year I got involved in youth ministry as the first primary school Youth Minister, piloting the new CSYMA Junior program in the two primary schools. 


Youth Ministry is something that I didn’t know much about before launching into it. I have grown up in a catholic family and went to catholic schools, but I had never experienced faith through Youth Ministry as a student myself. Over my short time so far as a youth minister, I have been able to see that youth ministry is so important in helping to grow the faith of students. It is something that I wish I could have been a part of throughout my time at school. After becoming a Youth Minister, I have found my faith has grown in such a powerful way and I have been able to realize the importance of God in my own life through ministering to others. 


I love being a Youth Minister at South Belconnen because I am able to work with young primary students as well as other students and parishioners from all stages of life. 

I love being a role model for the students and being able to watch them grow into the people they are meant to be. It brings me so much joy seeing the students increase in confidence have an interest in their own faith and it makes me so excited about all of the things that they will do and accomplish in the future. 


A consistent highlight for me each week as Youth Minister in South Belconnen are the days that I get to spend working with the students. Whether it is a small conversation about their weekend, who won the handball game at lunch or deeper questions about God. I have found that building a relationship with the students makes them eager to be involved in initiatives like the school Youth Ministry Team, the Youth Groups and Masses. I love seeing the students then step up and lead prayer celebrations and retreat days because they are so capable and inspiring when sharing their faith with others.   


I am so excited to continue working with the students, staff and broader parish community as the South Belconnen Youth Minister because I have been able to see in my time so far the impact that CSYMA junior has had on both the schools and the parish.

Lismore SHINE Gathering

Shine 2019

Celebrating Youth Alive in the Church


“Christ is alive! He is our hope, and in a wonderful way he brings youth to our world, and everything he touches becomes young, new, full of life.” These are the very first words Pope Francis writes to all young people and the wider Church in his most recent exhortation Christus Vivit. SHINE embodies this message and the 700 participants who gathered last week at St John Paul College, Coffs Harbour, for the annual Gathering left renewed and full of life.


Since 2013, the Proclaim Lismore Catholic Culture Change Program has aimed to enable students to achieve the fullness of life. This mission is inspired by the Good Shepherd’s words in the Gospel of John; Jesus accompanies us, promising to be the gatekeeper to a full life. Each year the SHINE program evolves and improves to better accompany the young participants. This year the central theme for keynotes, workshops, dramas, activities, music, small groups and prayer was ‘You Know My Name’. “I have called you by name. You are mine,” is how Isaiah articulates this truth. Who doesn’t want to be called by name; known? The “knowing” and the “naming” seem to hit that inner part of ourselves and as disoriented, forgotten or ashamed as we feel, we are precious in God’s eyes and in the words of Bishop Greg, “we must learn to love ourselves.”

The capacity and giftedness of the team was highlighted this year, with the Proclaim Lismore Wildfire band leading worship in every session. A powerful moment at SHINE was during the morning rally when a choir of students joined the band on stage to sing Psalm 23. The young people had only learnt the song in a workshop the day before, but the harmonies kindled the hearts of everyone in the hall. The Youth Ministry Officers took the lead during most of the sessions with the help of 100 senior student leaders. A refreshing variety of interactive workshops are offered each year, and 2019 additions like ‘Faith in Sport’ and ‘Looking out for your friends: Mental Health’ were very popular.


Bishop Greg’s presence at SHINE is always a highlight and we are extremely grateful for his insight and support. The accompanying teachers, Sr Dedith Moralde and members of the clergy including keynote speaker Fr Paul Gooley, offered a special layer of spirituality and guidance. The SHINE Gathering could not run without them.


The young church is alive and willing, and the SHINE Gathering will continue to celebrate the youthful Spirit in the Catholic Church for years to come.


Canberra Goulburn SHINE Gathering

A record number of students from the Archdiocese gathered at Marist College on Wednesday August 7 for the third annual Shine Gathering.

This year 520 students from 12 schools across the Archdiocese participated in the Gathering, up from 450 students last year.

Project Officer for Catholic Schools and the New Evangelisation, Nathan Galea, said he was excited by the continued growth of Shine which he described as a chance for young people who’ve chosen the Youth Ministry course to come together from all over the Archdiocese.

“We’ve got people from Pambula and the South Coast, people from around Canberra, out in the country, places like Temora and Cootamundra,” he said.

“There’s something special about when we come together and, at a time in the Church when there’s not necessarily a lot of engagement level, we know, as Pope Francis has called us, to go to where our young people are and then to call them on and to show them the gift of our Faith and what it is that our Catholic Faith has to offer.”

Archbishop Christopher Prowse, who was one of the opening speakers at the Gathering, was also pleased with the continued growth of the event and said he was proud to welcome the present and future leaders of the Church – the now of the Church.

“I’m really happy it has been organised by youth, for youth and for the evangelisation particularly of youth in the Archdiocese,” Archbishop Christopher said.

“We’re well placed to be what Christ wants us to be, to be his presence in the world today as Missionary Disciples.”

The event was a gathering of year 9 and 10 students who had chosen an elective within the Religious Education curriculum focused on the CSYMA youth ministry program.  The popularity of the elective is an indicator of the success of the CSYMA model now being implemented across the Archdiocese.

The Shine Gathering started with an introduction and Welcome to Country by Nathan Galea, a welcome from Marist College by Headmaster Matthew Hutchison and a Welcome from Catholic Education by Angus Tulley, before Archbishop Christopher addressed the students and urged them to be open to what the day had to offer.

Throughout the day, students participated in ice-breakers, workshops, singing, testimonies and a range of other activities.

The theme of this year’s Shine Gathering was “The Truth: Life = Love”.

Youth Minister Profile – Mariah Allan

Youth Minister Profile – Mariah Allan

My name is Mariah Allan and I’m one of the Youth Ministry Officers at St Paul’s College in Kempsey. I am currently 18 years of age and am a member of the Nambucca Valley Catholic Parish.

Without youth ministry I believe I would be a very different person. If it hadn’t been for my CSYMA classes and events such as SHINE and Ignite Conference, I never would have discovered the beauty of a genuine relationship with God. I am touched when students approach me and are willing to be vulnerable in order to find out more about our faith.  Having seen how God has changed my view of the world, I cannot believe that He would give imperfect me the opportunity to assist others in their search for Him, and to journey along with them.

Already this year, we have had the incredible opportunity to run a year 7 Belonging Day which was so rewarding as I got to know the new students personally.  Despite differences in beliefs, interests and experiences, I found that we all had a need in common – a thirst for something more.  What made me so delighted was seeing the senior students from our College really step up and be student disciples, leading the juniors. They adapted to unexpected changes seamlessly and led their small groups so authentically, I seriously couldn’t have asked for a better Ministry Team.

For the remainder of this year, I’m just excited for what God will do next, both in our College and with our students. We will soon be introducing the opportunity for Adoration in our College Chapel over lunchtime, which has never happened before – God is definitely creating change and I love that I’m able to witness His action first hand this year.

My faith is what sustains me when I can’t rely on myself. We have a God so open and so willing to embrace our imperfections and meet us where we are at. I love that I am able to share Jesus’ love for others in the same way that He loves me.