James Camden on ACYF: ‘awesome chance to evangelise and touch hearts’

By Jordan Grantham, 7 June 2017
James Camden, Director of Catholic Youth Parramatta. Image: Jordan Grantham, Diocese of Parramatta

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 Australian Catholic Youth Festival (ACYF). To read other profiles and learn more about the ACYF, click here.

Our first interview is with James Camden. James is Director of Catholic Youth Parramatta, Diocese of Parramatta, Chair of the Plenary Sub-Committee and a member of Archbishop Anthony Fisher’s Steering Committee for the Australian Catholic Youth Festival.

What is your role in the Plenary Committee?

My team on the Plenary Committee is responsible for bringing the four sessions in Qudos Bank Arena to life as well as the Closing Mass in the Domain on the Saturday evening. We are the creative and crazy team but also the one that will be most criticised for the choices we make. Bring on the challenge!

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

I’m looking forward to seeing so many young people who perhaps are completely unsure of what to expect being drawn into an engaging experience of Church. I don’t care what it takes to get them there, whether they’ve been selected by their school or forced by a parent. Once they’re there we have an awesome chance to evangelise and touch hearts. The odds are far better if they’re sitting in one of the chairs of the Arena then if they’re sitting on their couch at home.

Have large Catholic gatherings supported your faith? How so?

Large Catholic gatherings have had a huge impact on my faith. Without a doubt, a robust argument that occurred between my girlfriend (Lindsey) and I ten years ago whilst walking on pilgrimage to Randwick Racecourse for the final Mass of World Youth Day in Sydney changed my life. It’s these whole of Church experiences that are tough, busy, challenging, emotionally, physically and spiritually exhausting that get the best out of us and transform our hearts. It’s the spirit at work! Lindsey and I talked about things on our heart we’d never had the courage to address. And it was hard but life changing and now we’re married with two kids!

What are your specific activities to support the ACYF?

We are building four plenaries and a Mass that explore the festival theme: ‘Open new horizons for spreading joy’. There’ll be an incredible house band of the best Catholic musicians and singers we can find who’ll team up with professional artists from around Australian and the world. There’ll be dramas, dance, testimony, spectacular bits of production, lighting and sound. Bishops, presenters and performers will be stretching themselves out of their comfort zone in front of 15,000 young people prepared to listen to their message.

What are the challenges of your specific mission?

The scale of everything is huge. Everything has to be tens of times bigger than they’ve ever been done before. Our other challenge will be the diversity of the young people in the audience. Our mission is to find as many things as possible that will bring them together and help them realise and experience the joy of being the young heart of the Australian church. If we are successful in helping our young people to be open to  the Festival … they’ll leave for the workshops and faith experiences being provided in the Sydney Showground with a heart looking to engage.

What is your favourite…

Movie?                                   Aliens Franchise

Song?                                     You’re the Voice by John Farnham

Celebrity?                             Jennifer Aniston

Hymn?                                   Open the Eyes of My Heart

Artwork?                               Portrait of Saint John Baptist de La Salle (Patron Saint of Educators) in the Vatican Museums

Place of pilgrimage?        Desperate to visit the Holy Land

Saint?                                      Saint John Baptist de La Salle

The ACYF registration process can be completed on mobile or tablet devices. Alternatively, groups and individuals can register online at, www.acyf.org.au. For further information, contact James Camden, Director – Catholic Youth Parramatta – on jcamden@parra.catholic.org.au 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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