It’s a matter of paying it forward for Mandrid Fernandez (19), the new Youth Minister for St Matthew’s Parish, Windsor, and the Parish of Richmond. Mandrid will be taking part in our diocesan pilgrimage to WYD in Krakow this month.
Reflecting on his time in Youth for Christ (YFC) International since high school and his home parish youth group at St Andrew’s, Marayong, Mandrid has come to recognise some of the greatest influences in his faith are those who took up the baton to lead him in his faith formation.
“It started with Donnie Velasco, who is now the Assistant Director of the Institute for Mission,” Mandrid explained. “He was a leader at St Andrew’s Parish and he was one of the first leaders who inspired me to get more involved.
“Initially, you go for your friends and to have fun, but then the youth group provides you with opportunities to deepen your faith and to build relationships with those who show they genuinely care about you.
“Through listening to talks and developing my knowledge of the faith, I began a journey of self discovery and from that self discovery, a discovery of faith.”
Mandrid grew up in a Catholic family and attended Patrician Brothers’ College, Blacktown, but it wasn’t until Year 11 that he consciously made an effort to discern how his faith would shape his future.
“I was studying subjects that catered for a career in technology and engineering, but as the year went on, I began volunteering as a Special Religious Education (SRE) teacher in the nearby public school and then I was blessed to go on pilgrimage with the Diocese of Parramatta to World Youth Day (WYD) in Rio de Janeiro,” Mandrid explained.
“Through those experiences, I discovered that I was being called to a different vocation and I developed a passion for living out my faith in my daily life.
“WYD opened my eyes to the broader Catholic faith. I had been in a parish youth group but it really highlighted for me how big the Church is and I learnt that there were other paths I could take to live out my faith.”
His faith inspired him to pursue a Bachelor of Theology and he is now in his second year of study at The University of Notre Dame Sydney.
“I read up on the courses and Notre Dame just looked so beautiful and I was drawn in by what they stood for and how they could help me to make a difference in the world with my faith,” he said.
“What I love about Notre Dame is that it’s just really homely. I knew theology was the first step because you need to know your faith to be able to live it out.”
Complementing his studies, Mandrid decided to apply for the position of Youth Minister in Windsor and Richmond parishes.
“I really want to share all of my experiences and further develop my own faith through walking with the young people here,” Mandrid said.
“I want to show them that the faith is alive and beautiful because the modern world is telling them that religion is boring and that our faith is weird, but that’s just not the case.
“My vision for this youth group is a tree that is strong and flourishing with fruit. For the moment, we’re planting the seeds to grow that tree.”
Sr Rosie Drum MGL and James Camden from Catholic Youth Parramatta (CYP) have been a great support for Mandrid and the other nine youth ministers currently working within the Diocese of Parramatta.
“They show time and time again that they are here for all of us and they coordinate events for us to come together to share ideas for developing the youth formation in the Diocese,” Mandrid said.
“Sr Rosie taught me that Youth Ministry is about bringing the youth back to the sacramental life of the Church. My end goal is to get people to know God first because this isn’t just a job for me. It’s more than that.
“The real reason I’m here is for His greater glory.”