Australian man to advise Pope Francis on youth

By Jordan Grantham, 21 September 2018
Sebastian Duhau from St Andrew the Apostle Catholic Parish, Marayong. Image: ACYF.


A Blacktown local will have the eyes of the world on him from October 3, when he speaks to Pope Francis and the 15th General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in Rome on ‘Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment’.

Sebastian Duhau, 22, will be one of only 20 lay people from around the world speaking at the important event. Previous synod meetings produced influential papal documents Evangelii Gaudium and Amoris Laetitia.

How does Sebastian feel to be meeting Pope Francis?

“Awestruck, excited, completely confused and all of it at the same time,” Sebastian said. “And among that really, really humbled.”

Sebastian works in youth ministry for the De La Salle Brothers’ Lasallian Mission Council, studied mathematics and theology at the University of Sydney and spent seven years in youth ministry at his local parish, St Andrew the Apostle Catholic Parish, Marayong.

Friends, relatives and a global family of Lasallians will be cheering him on.

Amanda Proulx of Boston is Assistant Director of Formation at the Lasallian Mission Council, headquartered in Sydney, Australia.

Amanda praised Sebastian’s personal qualities, bringing “great creativity, infectious joy and wonderful skills in relating to young people. He has an ability to bring both our Catholic faith and Lasallian Charism to life in a powerful way.”

“A strong and vital faith animates everything he does in an authentic way that attracts people to him. He is a powerful witness,” she said.

The personable young man is a keen Liverpool FC supporter and talented saxophone player, performing frequently with Catholic Youth Parramatta’s LIFTED Band.

“I do love jazz, more modern things, RnB,” Sebastian said.

Will Sebastian play ‘RnB’ for Pope Francis?

Sebastian laughs, “If the opportunity arises!”

He will have the opportunity to speak to the hierarchy of the Church for four minutes, condensing experiences from his youth ministry work that take him around Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific.

“Something that surprises me constantly is how different expressions of faith are,” Sebastian said.

Working with Catholic teachers in Papua New Guinea was eye opening.

“Experiencing this level of faith was new, it was not just something they chose, it was their way of life, way of being and surviving,” Sebastian said.

“They have so little and they have so much in their reliance on God and they know God will provide no matter what. I found that something beautiful and just a great reminder of what faith is about and who God is.”

Sebastian has an urgent message for Pope Francis.

“I think the Church needs to restructure how it approaches, forms and supports young people in their lives.

“We focus so much on catechesis in the current context that we forget to invite them into relationship with Jesus.

“The strongest communities are where faith shines the strongest – that’s something I find really special. We need to take a few steps back and remember it is a relational faith and it’s not about laws or rules, those things come afterward,” Sebastian said.

Inclusiveness, open mindedness and universal welcome will also feature in Sebastian’s speech.

“As Pope Francis says, open the doors to everyone and welcome everyone in,” he said.

He wants to point out the different challenges for young people, whether mental health issues in developed countries or life threatening diseases in developing areas.

Msgr Ron McFarlane, Chancellor of the Diocese of Parramatta, has been Sebastian’s parish priest for several years.

“He’s a person who has got commitment and his priorities in place but he’s also a very engaging personality,” Msgr McFarlane said.

“People of his age who go to Rome find it a very uplifting and very faith deepening experience.”

Sebastian’s parish community greatly values their youth ministry team that Sebastian has been in for seven years.

Camilo Paulo Velasco, Assistant Director of the Institute for Mission, has known Sebastian for ten years and recommends him as a youth minister and friend.

“He had the right charisma, skill set, personality and spiritual openness,” Camilo said. “I see him as a brother in the mission and look forward to the day that he is ministering to me.”

The Synod run from 3-28 October 2018.


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