Francis O’Callaghan on ACYF: ‘opportunity to worship with 15,000 people’

By Jordan Grantham, 23 November 2017
Frances O'Callaghan. Image: Supplied.

This article is the last in a series of profiles on members of the Diocese of Parramatta who have been nominated to help prepare for the Australian Catholic Youth Festival (ACYF). To read other profiles and learn more about the ACYF, click here.

Francis O’Callaghan is Religious Education Coordinator at St Paul’s College, Greystanes. He is on the Australian Catholic Youth Festival’s Programming Sub-Committee.

What is your specific role in the ACYF?

I am on the programming committee, which is tasked with advising on the workshops, ‘mega workshops’ and leadership centre for the festival, which constitute the middle part of each day. I specifically advise on the development and implementation of the ‘Year of Youth Leadership Centre’.

What insights do you bring from your teaching background?

There is a new audience for ACYF 2017, which is youth who have not yet experienced a major festival or who have lost confidence in their active faith. As a teacher, I am very aware of this in my daily interactions with students and I can offer a perspective that can contribute to the festival by having elements that are appealing, broad and relevant to their needs.

What are you most looking forward to at the Australian Catholic Youth Festival?

There are so many great things happening, it is hard to pick just one. I think that the opportunity to worship with 15,000 people at Qudos Bank Arena has got to be a highlight, but it is going to be like standing in a lolly shop for three days.

Have large Catholic gatherings supported your faith? How so?

I was a member of Antioch Australia as a youth and our major festivals were a tremendous source of joy to me as it connected me with other people of faith that I admired and drew strength from. I continue to be inspired by our Lifted Live events with their mixture of music, testimony and worship which is a beautiful and emotional experience for me.

What are your specific activities to support the ACYF?

I am leading support for the festival at my school and supporting the Diocese of Parramatta as a consultant for the formation of youth leading up to the ACYF. Additionally, I am working on supporting the diocese with their youth ministry and leadership programs post ACYF.

What are the challenges of your specific mission?

It is a huge undertaking with a great many gifted people who need to be consulted and acknowledged for their support. We have a great many young people who are challenged in their faith, but they also carry a fear of the unknown, of the stigma that being a person of faith can carry in a country that is being influenced by growing secularism.

The next great challenge for me is to find ways that I can support the continued energy and enthusiasm that events like ACYF produce in young people so that it can be channelled meaningfully into their daily lives, so that they can better experience the love of God in their lives.

What is your favourite Catholic…

Song?                                   At the Foot of the Cross – Fr Rob Galea

Hymn?                                Be Not Afraid

Artwork?                           Rembrandt’s Prodigal Son

Place of pilgrimage?    Mt Schoenstatt Shrine at dusk

Saint?                                  St Maximilian Kolbe

Church?                             Our Lady of the Nativity, Lawson

The ACYF registration process can be completed on mobile or tablet devices. Alternatively, groups and individuals can register online at, For further information, contact James Camden, Director – Catholic Youth Parramatta – on or (02) 8838 3428.

This article is part of a series of profiles on members of the Diocese of Parramatta who have been nominated to help prepare for the ACYF. To read other profiles and learn more about the ACYF, click here.

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