What a difference a day makes.
After playing to a crowd of 750 primary school students yesterday, Victorian priest Fr Rob Galea spoke and sung to a smaller, older crowd.
170 students from 17 Catholic high schools from Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains came together to share their leadership hopes at LIFTED Leaders 2019 at the EVAN Theatre in Panthers Penrith on Friday 22 February.
LIFTED Leaders connected young school leaders from across the diocese in formation and sharing of team goals and strategies for their respective schools.
In the first session of the day, Fr Rob shared with the school leaders his personal story – his struggles as a teenager with addiction, rebellion and having suicidal thoughts.
“If God can take my mess and turn it into a message, I promise you that He can do this with you,” he said.
School leaders then had the opportunity to share with their small groups about their school, what makes their school noticeably Catholic and their own personal journeys to leadership.
The leaders were then asked to share a leadership-driven goal or initiative that is being pursued by their school.
Xavier College, Llandilo will be running a Return and Earn program, with money being donated to different initiatives each term.
McCarthy Catholic College, Emu Plains will be working with Jesuit Social Services around the Penrith area helping those in need.
Parramatta Marist High, Westmead, will be connecting and working with an indigenous school in Abergowrie, Queensland and enriching their indigenous knowledge.
A group of World Youth Day 2019 Panama pilgrims then shared with the group their experiences and the most moving part of their pilgrimage.
Following lunch, the student leaders were able to get involved in the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference’s Plenary Council 2020 process.
Sr Rosie Drum mgl, Assistant Director of CYP discussed the Plenary Council 2020 process and how responses from the young people aged 16-30 has been lacking.
Responses were posted and shared in real-time and were discussed as a group.
Fr Rob returned to lead the student leaders in music, with the cohort getting involved in actions and an impromptu rendition of Baby Shark.
He continued his life story, saying that he was able to get through his troubles through faith.
“I still today suffer from depression. There are still days where I don’t feel like getting out of bed, days when I don’t feel like facing the world. But despite all of that, I have a hope.
“We get stuck in so many things – depression, addiction, broken relationships – thinking that there’s no way out. But I found a way out.
“There is light above the dark clouds, I know whose shoulders to stand on, I know how to get above the clouds.
“I found my way out of the darkness. Each day may be a struggle, but I found the greatest treasure, that is a relationship with a God who is of love, who lifts us up.
“Even in the mess of your live, you are loved by God,” Fr Rob said.
At the end of the day, students were encouraged to pick a medallion of a saint from the sacred space, and research and reflect on that saint and how they can influence their student leadership.
Mark Smith, Head of Mission at Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta, thanked the teachers, CYP and Fr Rob Galea and encouraged student leaders to think about what kind of person they will be whilst at school and beyond.
“Today was a chance as leaders to meet other leaders across the diocese early in the year to get a bit of inspiration and fellowship,” Mark said.
“We believe that you carry a weight. You may be asked a lot of questions this year.
“The more important question is ‘what sort of person are you going to be for our world?’ ‘What is your legacy?’ It’s something that you can control and decide here today.
“After you leave school, please don’t graduate from life in the diocese.”
Mitchell Simpson from Marian Catholic College, Kenthurst, said that LIFTED Leaders was “a great way to hear the other school’s initiatives and their thoughts on ways to move forward.”
Sarah Benici from Xavier College, Llandilo said “it was really good to meet people from other schools that have the same ideas and visions as us.”
Nick Gorman from Xavier College, Llandilo said LIFTED Leaders was “a great way to us to reflect on how the church is in our world today and how we’re sharing our faith in our schools. It was great to get some song and dance in with Fr Rob as well.”
“We’ll try and get some of our friends and more people from the school involved in diocesan events like today.”
The LIFTED Live festivities concluded with LIFTED Live for all youth, students and families across the diocese on Friday night.
View images from the LIFTED Leaders 2019 session here or below.