Festival promises a joyful celebration of faith

Acclaimed musician Matt Maher is just one of many drawcards attracting Sydney Catholic secondary students to the Australian Catholic Youth Festival from 7-9 December.

The festival promises to be the largest gathering of Catholic youth in Australia since World Youth Day Sydney in 2008. It is expected to attract up to 15,000 young people aged 15 to 30 from all over Australia. The three-day event will culminate in the final Mass at the Domain and the organisers says they are pulling out all stops to ensure they offer a rich variety of speakers, entertainers, workshops and formation opportunities.

Mark Smith, Archdiocesan Youth Ministry Coordinator at Sydney Catholic Schools said all Sydney Catholic Secondary Schools were currently promoting the festival to their students and recruiting a large-scale involvement of their students and staff.

Every student in Year 10 at Trinity Catholic College Auburn will be attending all three days of the festival, as well as 10 Year 11 students and a number of Year 12 students who will have graduated by the time the festival is on.

The Festival will be a national expression and joyful celebration of the young Church in Australia.

– Archbishop Anthony Fisher

Liam Duncan, English teacher and acting Youth Ministry Coordinator at Trinity Catholic College, said the festival offers students a diversity of opportunities.

“There’s the opportunity to celebrate faith with 15,000 other young people with international guests like Matt Maher and Steve Angrisano. They will also be able to extend themselves to learn about issues of social justice and explore the impact they can have on these issues, and to enter spaces of worship and contemplation in a communal way.”

Mr Duncan said the festival was also an opportunity for the students to see themselves as part of a bigger picture.

“For many school students, their faith exists within their parish and our school. While this has given them a space to be nourished in their beliefs, the ACYF will provide the opportunity to see themselves as part of a picture that stretches across our country, across the world; to see themselves as part of this big family that is the Church. It’s a unique chance for our students.”

Peter Nguyen, a Year 11 student at Trinity Catholic College said he hopes the ACYF will help him to deepen his faith and to experience the Christian spirit.

“I want to connect to God through this event and feel God’s presence through the music, through the worship.”

All of Marist College North Shore’s 150 Year 10 students will be attending the festival and there is interest from another 50 students from Years 9, 11 and 12.

Religious Education Coordinator Anthony Munro said student interest has far exceeded their expectations.

“We attribute this to our student engagement initiatives where our boys have been actively involved with various forms of liturgy, reflections and many social justice initiatives where they can stand in solidarity with those on the margins of society.

“Our Youth Ministry Coordinator, Michael Dela Cruz has been excellent in animating the students and the festival will be a natural extension of his wonderful work.”

Year 10 student Jonathan Amirzaian says the festival will allow him to connect with his peers and other people his age from other Catholic schools in a faith-filled environment.

“I have heard wonderful things about how music and testimonies from people my age can help me reflect more on my life and my relationship with God.”

At Patrician Brothers’ College Fairfield, all Year 9 students will be attending, as well as 40 self-nominated students and a group of 8 Year 12 students.

The College held a Father Rob Galea concert in June to raise funds for the Year 9 students attending the ACYF.

Bruce Carr, Religious Education Coordinator at Patrician Brothers’ Fairfield said he is excited about the strength in unity the festival will provide our young Catholics.

“What I hope they get out of it is that it’s cool to worship God. Matt Maher is a massive win.”

Students are also being encouraged to submit a short three-minute film or an artwork which will be curated into an exhibition at the festival. Entries must reflect the festival theme: ‘Open new horizons for spreading joy: young people, faith and vocational discernment’. Both competitions are open to upcoming filmmakers and artists from Year 9 to 30-year-olds and the closing date for entries is 16 October 2017.

Malcolm Hart, Director of the Office for Youth said: “These artistic and creative elements of the festival are a unique opportunity to showcase and celebrate the many gifts and talents of young people.”

The festival will be hosted at Sydney Olympic Park with the final Mass taking place at the Domain on Saturday, 9 December at 6.30pm.  The final Mass is an open event of the Church so all families are invited to attend the special celebration and the launch of the Year of Youth 2018 led by Archbishop Anthony Fisher. Primary schools are particularly encouraged to invite their Year 5 and 6 students and families to attend.

“The festival will be a national expression and joyful celebration of the young Church in Australia,” Archbishop Fisher said.

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