The Australian Catholic Youth Festival 2017 is hosted by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference in partnership with the Archdiocese of Sydney. It will be held from 7-9 December 2017.
The Diocese of Parramatta will be covering the event daily and providing regular updates via:
Catholic Outlook – www.catholicoutlook.org/category/catholiclife/youth/acyf/
Facebook – www.facebook.com/parracatholic/
Instagram – www.instagram.com/parracatholic/
Twitter – www.twitter.com/parracatholic
Bright possibilities for young Australian Church
By Jordan Grantham
The first morning of the Australian Catholic Youth Festival (ACYF) exploded with energy from almost 20,000 young people across the young Catholic Church in Australia.
A celestial atmosphere connected tens of thousands of youth as a sea of phone lights sparkled across the packed Qudos Bank Arena at Sydney Olympic Park.
The Australian Catholic Youth Festival then went viral as the thousands took selfies with each other to celebrate being together in the largest Catholic youth gathering since WYD2008.
Archbishop Fisher received a rapturous reception after Aboriginal Catholic students and local elders performed a moving chanted smoke ceremony that marked the start of the first plenary.
Archbishop Fisher used youth and Australian colloquialisms to represent the journey of the Blessed Virgin Mary from the Annunciation to Christmas in Bethlehem.
He focused on the marginalisation and suffering of the Blessed Virgin Mary; poverty, homelessness and condescension, leading up to the first Christmas.
“Actually she’s the most famous woman on earth,” Archbishop Fisher said, to spontaneous applause for Our Lady.
Archbishop Fisher then triumphantly proclaimed some of Our Lady’s titles from the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary and explained the talks, workshops, prayers and experiences of the Australian Catholic Youth Festival to the gathered thousands.
“Matt Maher has helped us get into the spiritual groove,” he said, thanking the nine-time Grammy nominee and headline performer who wowed the crowd with hits Lord, I Need You and Your Grace is Enough.
“If there’s a heaviness in your heart…the power that raised Jesus from the dead can change your life,” Matt told the jubilant fans.
Malcolm Hart, Director of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference Office for Youth encouraged the youth to “throw yourself in as if a spiritual crowd surfer.”
The joy and magnitude of the event is a challenge to contemporary critics religion’s place in society.
“I say ‘look at this room’,” Archbishop Fisher said.
“You aspire to more than the shallow fulfilment offered by the culture.”
Archbishop Fisher read a message from Pope Francis to the Australian Catholic Youth Festival, including the Apostolic Blessing.
The first plenary also featured a stand-out performance by Fr Rob Galea, Lebanese drummers, and Sr Hilda Scott OSB interviewing young Catholics about their faith.
ACYF has a plethora of workshop and talk options after the major Plenary sessions in the Qudos Bank Arena.
Deacon Adrian Gomez led one such workshop on Lectio Divina, a traditional form of contemplating the sacred scriptures.
He brought 230 students from years 9 and 10 at St Leo’s College, Wahroonga.
“We want them to see another side of Church and hope they have an openness to becoming more involved,” he said.
Deacon Adrian first leaned Lectio Divine while on retreat at Jamberoo Benedictine Abbey, the home of Sr Hilda Scott OSB, another featured speaker at the festival.
“It is the most beautiful spiritual place in Australia and it’s the place I go to recharge reconnect with God,” Deacon Adrian told Catholic Outlook on his way to a live public interview about being a deacon.
Several panels featured prominent professionals, including Margaret Cuneen SC, Jason Morrison, Shane Healy, Genna Radnan and Greg Wylie.
It was sponsored by the PAYCE Foundation and included Manager Andrea Comastri.
The panel made the key distinction between leadership roles and leadership qualities.
Most Rev Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta launched WYD Panama 2019 especially for the 3,000 Diocese of Parramatta attendees at the festival.
Speaking in front of Catholic youth from the Diocese of Parramatta, Bishop Vincent invited them to consider deepening their faith and partaking in the pilgrimage to be held in Panama.
“Israel was always on pilgrimage, even when they reached the Promised Land,” Bishop Vincent said.
WYD Panama 2019, dubbed ‘Panamatta’ by Sr Rosie Drum MGL is more than just a week overseas, said John Buhagiar, a youth leader in the Diocese.
For the Diocese of Parramatta, World Youth Day is a two-year journey involving formation and community before and after the event.
“We knew, trusted and prayed together before World Youth Day,” which made a massive difference, John said.
Alyssa, another former pilgrim gave a touching testimony about her experience, describing the previous World Youth Day as what Heaven would be like – millions praising God together.
WYD Panama 2019 will involve travel and service in Mexico, the USA and host country Panama.
Bishop Umbers drew the numbers in his fascinating talk, ‘Does my Guardian Angel like Memes?’ in the late afternoon.
The Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Sydney addressed an overflowing Qudos Bank Arena Club Room.
The answer is ‘yes’ Guardian Angels do like Memes insofar as good internet meme images bring people closer to God. Memes are often humourous combinations of text and visuals.
“Angels rejoice in the glory of God,” Bishop Umbers said.
When memes manifest some of that glory, Guardian Angels indeed ‘like’ those memes.
This is analogous to the higher form of happiness from recognising the good in other people’s lives.
“To see you guys doing what you do is an added joy,” he said, referring to youth praying and reaching milestones in life.
“When you’re old, you’ll enjoy seeing youth doing that.”
Bishop Umbers pointed out that physical manifestations of angels and demons are extraordinary and very uncommon.
“We know demons tempt us, oppress us with every day temptations,” he said.
Bishop Umbers was motivated to start his successful online ministry when he saw the popularity of the Harambe Meme phenomenon in 2016. He is active across Twitter and Facebook.
Bishop Umbers also encouraged young people to grow close to the Blessed Virgin Mary and remember the essence of Christianity.
“Anytime there’s temptation, turn to Mary,” he said.
“Any good mother sees the potential in the child – Mary sees that in us, she sees Jesus Christ in us.”
Christianity is about faith, hope and love connecting us to God, he said.
The theologically virtuosic speech deeply engaged the young crowd.
In a good sign for the Australian Catholic Youth Festival, Bishop Umbers was mobbed the Bishop afterwards for more of his witty and eloquent explanations.
A second plenary wrapped up a wonderful first day at ACYF.
Performances by the ACYF house band and internationally-renowned Steve Angrisano had the crowd at Qudos Bank Arena singing, praying and cheering into the evening.
There were also powerful lectures by Archbishop Mark Coleridge from the Archdiocese of Brisbane and Sr Hilda OSB.
Sr Hilda interviewed young Catholics, including the lovable Malia, parish secretary from Holy Family Parish, Mt Druitt in the Diocese of Parramatta.
For those who can’t attend the Australian Catholic Youth Festival in Homebush and the Domain, XT3 will be bringing the key events to you live and streamed over the internet.
Check out the following events, dates and times that you can watch direct on YouTube here.
Friday 8th December
9:30am -10:45am AEDT
Saturday 9th December
Pre-Mass Concert with Matt Maher
With thanks to XT3.