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Rooty Hill youth group busts open big issues and shares hope

By Jordan Grantham, 18 October 2017
St Aiden's Catholic High School, Rooty Hill Youth Group. Photo: Jordan Grantham / Diocese of Parramatta

Love of Christ and confidence in the truth of the Catholic Faith are clear in secondary teacher Harry Sadsad’s student ministry group at St Agnes Catholic High School, Rooty Hill.

For the past four years, up to 40 students gather weekly in the extra-curricular time slot on Thursday afternoons. The student lead ministry is fun while tackling serious issues about faith and adolescent life.

Catholic Outlook attended the youth group and observed the mix of fun team games and relaxed group sharing.

Harry Sadsad could not be more joyful and at home supervising the youth ministry, which several students lead confidently.

“We have a core group of two or three students and we sit down and talk about what we can do this week,” Harry said.

These students plan practical activities about living the Faith for the group, including a weekly theme.

“The topics we cover are prayer, stress, social pressures, time management, relationships, families, bringing peace and being Christ to our families, friends and in and outside the classroom,” Harry said.

Most of all, St Agnes Catholic High School youth group is about asking: “How can I apply what I’ve learned in what I do?”

Harry was inspired to start the group because of his background in youth ministry before becoming a teacher.

“We were all talking with students and they wanted to bring their friends to something that might make them more interested in the Faith.”

“I started with maybe ten students,” he said.

“Then they were able to get more to their friends to come and it sort of just grew from there.”

“On Thursdays, with half the school is doing competitive sport and the rest of the school has activities, it presented the perfect opportunity to run something different with the permission from the executive team.”

“We rotate – one day it could be Year 10s doing the leading, or Year 9s or Year 8s.”

“I’m usually in the back, just facilitating. Having someone their age leading and teaching can send an even stronger message.”

There is time for prayer at each youth group meeting, reflecting on the Gospel and studying the Bible.

“We focus on a short passage of the Gospel and really unpack it. We use the Lectio Divina method.”

“A good portion of it is just them sharing. That’s when a lot of benefits happen. It’s not just one person talking; it’s them talking to each other.”

“They can talk about things openly, faith-wise.”

“Sometimes they can’t talk about these things in the playground, their friends might not be as strong in the faith as they are.”

The hardest hitting issues students discuss are about family.

“One of the recent weeks asked the question – ‘What do our parents do for us?’ It was just a very general question,” Harry said.

“It opened up so many emotions. Our students didn’t realise that it takes a lot of work to take care of them through the countless sacrifices made by their parents.”

“Some of them had a very changed attitude when they went home, and hopefully this has improved their relationship with their families.”

They were “opening up about families lives, struggles financially, how many jobs their parents work so they can go to this school.”

“It let them realise they owe a lot to their parents, more than they used to think.”

Peter Brogan is Principal at St Agnes Catholic High School, Rooty Hills and fully supports the initiative.

“I’m very blessed that my principal is so supportive. Our Principal pops by to be there with the kids from time to time,” Harry said.

“The students like it as well. It’s a safe space, there’s no judgement.”

“It’s all about God being present, even in your struggles.”

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