Australian Catholic Youth Festival 2019
‘Holy Spirit, Breath of God, you come to us in the stillness and silence of this Great South Land.
Give us the courage to open our hearts and ears, to listen to your voice as we seek to foster the growth of your Church in Australia.’
(Australian Catholic Youth Festival 2019 prayer)
In December 2019, over 6000 young people from all over Australia gathered at the Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre for the Australian Catholic Youth Festival (ACYF).
Among them were 667 students from Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Melbourne. Some students travelled with their schools and some with their parishes – but all travelled with the same purpose: to ‘listen to what the Spirit is saying’ (Rev 2: 7).
These pilgrims had responded to Archbishop Peter A Comensoli’s invitation to attend the festival to ‘share in our faith, rejoice in the gifts of the Lord and to simply have a wonderful time’.
Over 1000 Melbourne pilgrims attended the opening Mass at St Mary’s Cathedral, which welcomed the group.
The ACYF was an opportunity for rejuvenating the Church, and the atmosphere was electric as the festival began and pilgrims anticipated the plenaries, music performances and international guest speakers.
The festival group came together each morning and evening for plenary sessions with live music and entertainment from many performers, including festival favourite Fr Rob Galea, and to hear from inspirational speakers, including Grace Forrest, co-founder of the Walk Free Foundation. Pilgrims were well-connected, receiving daily text messages and videos about upcoming festival activities.
In between plenaries, students were able to attend workshops, discussions, Mass, Confession, open-air concerts and explore the Encounter Expo’s stalls, all while making great friends.
During the festival, the Melbourne group had an expo stall where pilgrims were able to add to the ‘Gratitude Wall’ – a replica of the windows of St Patrick’s Cathedral.
The ACYF was also an opportunity to connect with bishops from across Australia. Archbishop Peter met with many of the pilgrims and they all received a personal letter from him.
The Melbourne Moment was the final gathering and Archbishop Peter closed the event, encouraging young people to be adventurous, to set out into new frontiers and to be ‘horizon hunters’. This invitation was drawing from Pope Francis’ encouragement to youth when he said, ‘Youth is more than simply a period of time; it is a state of mind’ (Christus Vivit, n. 34).
Pilgrims were invited to write to one of Melbourne’s parishes to express the joy of the encounter of the festival.
In February, some student pilgrims from Our Lady of Sion College, Box Hill, had the opportunity to share their ACYF experience with Catholic Education Melbourne staff. The students shared how important this experience was for their faith journey and the development of a more personal connection to the Catholic faith alongside regular attendance at Mass.