Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta, has encouraged youth leaders of Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains to respect the diversity of those they journey with in their ministry.
Alongside Catholic Youth Parramatta, Bishop Vincent shared a thanksgiving dinner with the 70 leaders, celebrated their achievements, honoured their services and looked ahead to the many exciting opportunities in 2023.
“I express my deep appreciation to each and every one of you for your ministry of leadership, accompaniment and care to your fellow youth members in your parish communities,” Bishop Vincent said.
“I’m very proud of the fact that we have a comparatively vibrant youth ministry across the Diocese, and that vibrancy is possible because of the grassroots engagement.
“I’m proud and very grateful for your youth ministry in spite of the challenges of a post-Christian society that we are living in.”
In referencing Pope Francis, Bishop Vincent told the youth leaders that they have a duty to accompany those on the margins of the society, enabling them to find more meaning, love, acceptance and happiness in their lives.
“The capacity of being there for each other is a key ingredient to my ministry – sometimes you struggle to say the right words or to do the right things, but being there is the first step.
“Your time talking with people, engaging with people is not wasted. That time is appreciated by people, and even if you make an impact to one person, that’s one beautiful thing.
“Be mindful of those who are at a particular moment of vulnerability – be it a personal crisis, or health issues – who would appreciate gentle care and sensitivity and words of comfort, knowing that this ministry was a distinguishing feature of the ministry of Jesus.
“We should respect each other’s diversity. There are many things that can differentiate us, but we should not let those things divide us. We are stronger and better because of our diversity.”
Looking ahead to 2023, Bishop Vincent encouraged the leaders to continue to grow in their faith and in relationship with one another.
“As leaders, you are learners. We are on a journey together, so we must be open to learn, open to change and growth.
“As a leader, you are not to relate to your members in terms of hierarchy of difference and power, but rather by a relationship of love and service. You are there to learn from each other, there to support one another and this journey shapes us and makes us a better people.
“Thank you so much for all that you have done and continue to do in fostering relationships of respect, care, faith, hope and love.
“May 2023 be an exciting and promising year as we work together in strengthening our relationships and engagement.”
James Camden, Head – Mission Enhancement Team, said that what the youth leaders are doing on the ground will lead to greater opportunities in the future.
“When you are doing youth ministry, we are creating a Church within a Church for young people. Everything it needs to do has to be specifically directed at young people,” he said.
“Everyone in this room is equipped in the future to really lead significantly in the Church, and I think that’s really exciting.
“Keep remembering that you are made for more – there is a bigger purpose than just what you are doing currently that might seem not that important, but it is, it’s really going to change our Church for the future.”
James recognised the work that some youth leaders in the room have done over the past 12 months in growing the Church for the future, including those who will be group leaders for the Diocesan pilgrimage to World Youth Day.
After exploring the 2023 events calendar, the youth leaders were given the opportunity to share some words of encouragement to each other for the year ahead.
Tara from NET Ministries said, “remember the gift of faith in our lives and as leaders, it is our responsibility to share that with young people. Lean into God’s strength.”
Ruperto from Young Christian Students said, “failure is another step in the staircase to success. Through perseverance, we can strive to do anything. Never be afraid to fail and to ask for help.”
Jacob from Our Lady of the Rosary Parish, Kellyville, said “dare to listen to what God is calling you to do. If you have a quiet mind to listen to God, you will hear him call you to do incredible things.”
In 2023, Catholic Youth Parramatta has a range of exciting opportunities for community, formation and service. Alongside the global World Youth Day experience, CYP will be offering local events encouraging young people to encounter Christ. Keep up to date with their events by following them on Facebook and Instagram.