More than 70 youth ministry leaders gathered online on November 25, 2021 to start the process of establishing a new national youth network.
Hosted by the Bishops Commission for Evangelisation, Laity and Ministry (BCELM), in partnership with the Australian network of diocesan youth ministry coordinators (ANDYMC), the event attracted youth leaders from more than 40 parishes, schools, dioceses and youth ministries around the country.
Bishop Columba Macbeth-Green OSPPE, Bishop Delegate for Youth, and BCELM chair Archbishop Christopher Prowse both participated in the online consultation, which was facilitated by ANDYMC executive members Peter Bierer (Archdiocese of Adelaide) and Ellen Hales (Diocese of Lismore).
During the event, Bishop Macbeth-Green encouraged youth leaders to recognise the importance of their work and to know they are highly valued within the Church.
“Youth ministry’s not just a difficult job, it’s a vocation,” he said. “Young people today have a lot of difficulties, there’s disillusionment, there’s stress … they’re scared, they’re anxious about the world and about the future.
“You’ve been called by God to do this awesome ministry, and you need to have that intimate relationship with Christ yourselves. So don’t get weighed down so much that you forget to have that quiet time with the Lord, to recharge yourself, to hand over the difficulties that you can’t solve.”
Participants then reflected on two key questions during the consultation:
- What does it look like when the leaders of the young Church in Australia are journeying together?
- What are the possible obstacles to a healthy network? What contributions could you make to this network?
Ruth Lawlor, coordinator of youth ministry for the Diocese of Sandhurst, who provided a personal reflection during the event, said it was essential to first acknowledge that each youth ministry will be different depending on its location and specific context.
“The greatest way in my mind that we can journey together is to spend time sharing, listening, accompanying, collaborating, creating, celebrating and generally lifting each other up,” Ruth said.
“The most important thing we can do when we’re journeying together is to advocate together to ensure that our Church doesn’t forget the needs of young people.”
Director of the Arete Centre for Missionary Leadership Fr Chris Ryan MGL said the consultation demonstrated the enthusiasm for and necessity of a national youth network in Australia.
“The biggest challenge I see is that these things take time and youth ministers are really time poor, so we need to think a bit about what those resources look like to make it possible for something like this to happen,” he said.
“But it's exciting to be at this point and I think it’s got great potential going forward.”
Some common themes raised throughout the consultation included the need to build community over networks; the importance of collaboration; and a shared desire for unified efforts, both locally and nationally.
Participants were asked to submit their feedback via email, with contributions set to be collated into a final report, which will be presented to the Bishops Commission in the coming months. Further gatherings are proposed for 2022.