ACYF Day 1

By Mary Brazell, 9 December 2019
Diocese of Parramatta pilgrims are seen during a plenary session at the Australian Catholic Youth Festival 2019 in Perth. Image: Iceberg Media/Archdiocese of Perth/ACBC.


More than 5,500 young Catholics from across Australia have been encouraged to truly listen to the Holy Spirit as the Australian Catholic Youth Festival 2019 kicks off in Perth.

During the opening plenary session on Sunday 8 December, Shaun Nannup gave a humble Welcome to Country before Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB warmly welcomed the pilgrims to his Archdiocese of Perth.

Archbishop Costelloe told the story of St Francis of Assisi and, like the Italian saint, encouraged the young people across Australia to “rebuild my church”.

“As we gather here in Perth for this Australian Catholic Youth Festival, our Church, the Lord’s Church, seems to be in a bit of trouble,” Archbishop Costelloe explained.

“I know that this can sound a bit bleak, and we could easily give in to a sense of hopelessness and a sense of despair. But if, like St Francis, we give ourselves a chance to tune into another wavelength, we too might hear a mysterious, unexpected, hard-to-catch but persistent voice calling to us, calling out to us.

“To use the words of Pope Francis, don’t be afraid to make noise, don’t be afraid to cause a mess, don’t be afraid to share what is in your heart with the rest of the church. That’s why we’re here, that’s why we’ve got to listen to one another.

“‘Go and rebuild my church’ is what the Lord is saying to you over these days together. Some in the church have lost their way, lost their heart, lost their hope, so be young people of the Way of Jesus – be young people of heart and of hope in the Lord’s church,” Archbishop Costelloe said.

Archbishop Costelloe then hand-balled the proverbial and physical ball to Malcolm Hart, Director of the Office for Youth, Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC), who continued the sports analogy to inspire pilgrims to always listen to the Holy Spirit, their head coach.

“Most athletes and most teams have coaches and support staff, and above all them is the head coach – the one who holds the vision, the one who brings the team together,” Malcolm explained.

“The support for you as the young church is the same here in the Catholic Church of Australia.

“Your specialty coaches are the saints – those who have come before us who have particular charisms and strengths in their experiences that they want to share with you. The support staff are those who have travelled with you – your group leaders, the clergy and religious and our Bishops of Australia.

“But the head coach – the one when they speak, we listen – is the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit that we must listen for intently,” Malcolm said.

With Mother Hilda Scott’s busy schedule as abbess at Jamberoo Abbey, the Catholic Youth Festival was in need of a new must-see segment of the festival.

The humble lounge room and coffees have been replaced with camp chairs and tinnies, as Bishop Columba Macbeth-Green OSPPE, Bishop of the Diocese of Wilcannia-Forbes introduced Cruisin’ with Columba.

Four young people, including the Diocese of Parramatta’s Dylan Lal, spoke to the ACBC’s Bishops Delegate for Youth about their hopes and wishes for the festival.

Following the plenary sessions, the young people dispersed throughout the Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre for a range of workshops, talks and activities.

Diocese of Wollongong duo Gus and Iggy performed in the foyer of the Exhibition Centre, as American musician Joe Melendrez rocked the outdoor stage.

Throughout the festival, young people were encourage to participate in the Plenary Council 2020 process through the Bishops X-Change sessions.

On Sunday, Archbishop Costelloe and Bishop Michael Kennedy from the Diocese of Armidale spoke with pilgrims about the Plenary Council Theme of Discernment ‘The Church that is Inclusive, Participatory and Synodal,’

A popular workshop was presented by Bishop Greg Homeming from the Diocese of Lismore about making God a part of your life.

“We are all made to be the dwelling place of God,” Bishop Homeming told the young people. “You are the living God that is dwelling in you.

“As St Therese of Avilla said, the greatest thing a human being can do is talk to God.

“If God is in my life, wherever I go, I bring God, Christ is alive in me and I bring Christ into the world,” Bishop Homeming said.

Later in the afternoon, Rosie Drum MGL, Assistant Director, Catholic Youth Parramatta and Rebecca Hall from Holy Name of Mary Parish, Rydalmere, spoke on an all-female panel to a majority female audience about womanhood, femininity, and The Feminine Genius.

Ahead of the evening plenary session, Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP from the Archdiocese of Sydney, spoke on religion and mental health.

The evening plenary session kicked off with the Bishops from across Australia being introduced by a young person from their diocese.

Sebastian Duhau, from St Andrew the Apostle Parish, Marayong and Holly Roberts from the Archdiocese of Adelaide, who have both recently represented Australia at the Vatican, told their peers that “maybe it is our time to stand up and rebuild the church” as the “now of God”.

Missionaries of God’s Love Sisters Therese Mills and Judy Bowe, who recently became household names through their participation in the most recent season of reality TV show The Amazing Race, believed that their calling to participate in the show was a call from God and that they consistently asked the Holy Spirit to guide them in their journey of bringing the Gospel into lounge rooms.

Participants concluded the first day of the festival by participating in a form of prayer that originated from the Taizé community in France, before singer-songwriter Gen Bryant from the Archdiocese of Melbourne sent the pilgrims out.

The Australian Catholic Youth Festival is a biennial national festival, which is to be hosted by the Archdiocese of Perth from 8 to 10 December.

To keep up to date with ACYF, please visit or you can follow the Diocese of Parramatta’s Facebook and Instagram pages, as well as Catholic Youth Parramatta’s Facebook and Instagram sites.


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