ACYF Day 2 – ‘nothing is impossible to God’

By Mary Brazell, 10 December 2019
Bishop Christopher Saunders (C) celebrates the Missa Terra Sancti Spiritu, the Mass of the Land of the Holy Spirit, during Day 2 of the Australian Catholic Youth Festival in Perth. Image: Mary Brazell/Diocese of Parramatta.


More than 5,500 young Catholics have been asked to surrender themselves to God, and be open to say “yes” to what they are being called to on day two of the Australian Catholic Youth Festival.

American speaker, evangelist and author Katie Prejean McGrady told the Church of Australia during Monday’s evening plenary session that they are made “not just for something great”.

“You are not only made to make an impact in this world, but ultimately, you are made to have a seat in the heavenly Kingdom and you were made to worship God for all of eternity, but you, as a young person in Australia in 2019 are uniquely suited to be a witness and a voice to the goodness of God,” she said.

Katie then asked the young people a question she asked her two-year-old daughter when she caught her fixated during the consecration of the Eucharist during their local Mass – “Jesus is coming, what do you think he is going to do?”

Earlier in the day, modern slavery abolitionist and founding director of the Walk Free Foundation, Grace Forrest, spoke during the morning plenary session and encouraged the young people to become part of the solution to eliminate modern slavery.

“Ending modern slavery is going to take a major global economic shift and cultural change. Slavery is a complex issue that has been hundreds of years in the making, it is not going to be solved overnight. So we have to embrace compromise and collaboration to create solutions,” Grace said.

“If you care about climate change and protecting our natural environment, then you care about slavery. If you care about vulnerable people such as refugees, then you care about slavery. If you consider yourself a feminist, then you care about slavery.

“Imagine that power you have in your hands every single day. Power, used for good, embraced and encouraged is the game changer we need to be the last generation living with modern slavery. You have that power, don’t waste it,” she said.

Missionaries of God’s Love Sister Bernadette Toohey and Fr Chris Ryan gave the young Church four practical ways they can listen to the Holy Spirit – silence, signs, start and surrender.

“If we want to listen to the voice of God in our lives, we need to enter into times of silence,” Bernadette said. “The thing about silence that I discovered is that it’s actually not that quiet, it’s actually when you can hear the voice of God the loudest.”

Fr Chris added, “God gives us signs about what we are called to do, what he wants us to do with our lives. Occasionally God gets really direct and really overt, but most of the time, its more about small signs that add up to something, that add up to a direction.”

Bernadette said, “we need to start making practical steps and start moving in the direction we feel we are called to go and to listen to the Spirit on the journey.”

Fr Chris told the crowd that “our plans and our agendas can sometimes get in the way of really saying yes to what God wants of us. So it’s crucial to be able to surrender, to be able to say ‘yes God, I want to do whatever you want.’”

The teachers and youth ministers in the audience were called upon to pray for and bless their young people travelling with them, and the young people, in turn, were asked to pray for their teachers and youth ministers.

Victorian-based priest Fr Rob Galea told the young crowd, “God calls us to surrender not just because it’s going to make us weak, but because it’s going to make us stronger. So, Lord Jesus, we surrender to you, we surrender our hearts to you.”

Several Diocese of Parramatta pilgrims joined Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta, at the Bishops X-Change session which focussed on the Plenary Council Discernment theme of A Church that is Open to Conversion, Renewal and Reform.

Across the hallway, the Diocese of Parramatta’s Sebastian Duhau spoke to young people on how they can become better leaders than Pope Francis.

In the middle of the day, young pilgrims were invited to celebrate a special Mass with their Indigenous brothers and sisters.

From the joy, excitement and energy in the pre-plenary entertainment, pilgrims were solemn, reverend and silent before the Blessed Sacrament.

Bishop Christopher Saunders from the Diocese of Broome celebrated an English version of the Missa Terra Sancti Spiritu, the Mass of the Land of the Holy Spirit, wearing traditional Aboriginal face paint and an Indigenous stole.

Bishop Columba Macbeth-Green OSPPE, the chairman of the Bishops Commission for Relations with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, and the Bishop of the Diocese of Wilcannia-Forbes concelebrated Mass with Bishop Saunders and several priests, including Fr Alejandro Lopez OFM Conv, from Our Lady of the Rosary Parish, Kellyville.

The Mass centre inside the Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre was at capacity as locals from the Kimberley region sung and performed in the special ceremony, which also honoured the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary.

“With Jesus Christ in our heart, there is no need to be afraid,” Bishop Saunders said during his homily.

“Our faith allows us to see God looking favourably upon us and to know that with Jesus Christ in our hearts, in our minds and in our whole being, that we can be what God has called us to be.

“The words of the angel Gabriel [from today’s Gospel] need to echo in our hearts and minds – ‘be not afraid’.

“When you feel sad and lonely, when you feel hurt inside, remember Jesus Christ and ‘be not afraid.’ When you feel that society is against you and is putting you down, ‘be not afraid’ because Jesus is with you.

“To you who have lost people, family and friends [to suicide and self-harm], ‘be not afraid’ because Jesus Christ lives in your heart. If your families are hurt and suffering, if they feel as though they have been left aside, then ‘be not afraid’ because Jesus Christ is with you, He reigns in your heart.

“If you suffer racism in this country of ours, it hurts, but ‘be not afraid’ because Jesus Christ gives you the strength to know that you are loved eternally by a God who has a boundless appreciation and a warmth from you that can be found nowhere else except in His loving arms.

“Nothing is impossible to God,” Bishop Saunders said.

During the evening plenary, Bishop Columba spoke to four Indigenous young people from the Dioceses of Cairns, Broome and Lismore in a raw and open conversation about their personal struggles, to the affirmation of the whole crowd.

The youth festival came to a standstill on Monday night as members from the Diocese of Wollongong, including Bishop Brian Mascord and musical duo Gus and Iggy lead pilgrims in Eucharistic Adoration.

From the joy, excitement and energy in the pre-plenary entertainment, pilgrims were solemn, reverend and silent before the Blessed Sacrament.

In a show of support, several of the festival’s performing artists appeared on stage following Adoration for a medley of hits with Fr Rob and his house band.

ACYF concludes on Tuesday with a closing Mass at Trinity College in East Perth, after a pilgrimage walk from the Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre and a series of musical performances.

The location of the next ACYF, expected to be in 2021, is set to be announced at the closing Mass.

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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