Members of Religious Congregations were a joyful, engaging presence at the Australian Catholic Youth Festival, held in Sydney last week.
More than 19,000 young people from all across the country descended on Olympic Park and the Sydney Showgrounds for ACYF17, an initiative of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, which this year was hosted by the Archdiocese of Sydney.
Leading the way for Religious at the Festival was Sr Hilda Scott OSB, a popular veteran of previous ACYFs, who hosted a segment on-stage during the Plenary Sessions called ‘Hanging with Hilda’.
It involved Sr Hilda sitting on a lounge with some of the young Festival delegates, chatting over a cup of tea about some of the things on the young people’s minds. The topics included finding joy through disability and mental illness, as well as through community and family.
Sr Hilda also led the 19,000 young people through a session on prayer through Lectio Divina.
She told them that prayer was the place that God would encounter them and would write on their heart, changing the shape of their heart.
“You’ll begin to see things you’ve never seen before. You’ll begin to understand things you’ve never understood before,” she said. “I promise you, keep the word of God in your heart every day and you will be amazed at the horizons that open up in front of you.”
Speaking afterwards, Sr Hilda said she had found the Festival to be inspiring.
“To see the hearts of these young people open up over the three days has been so special,” she said.
Meanwhile, Religious were present in many ways throughout the Festival, whether accompanying groups of young people or engaging in conversation, games and fun with them by hosting a booth in the Encounter Dome.
Friar Joe McKay OFM said that participating in ACYF was part of a renewal in outreach for the Franciscans.
“For us, one of the main things we’re doing here is listening to young people,” he said. “As servants of the Gospel, we want to make the Gospel alive and be of service to young people and help them see the Church as God being in their own lives.
“What I really enjoy is the enthusiasm and energy of young people. That’s given me hope and I want to give them hope that they can be whoever God wants them to be.”
Sr Marie Reine Lekprasert of the Sisters of St Paul de Chartres in Brisbane said it was the first time she had attended an ACYF and she had been blessed by it.
“It’s amazing for the youth,” she said. “And to see their enthusiasm is wonderful. If each of these 19,000 young people goes home and takes action in their life from what they’ve encountered here, we’ll have a lot of fruit of the Holy Spirit.”
Photo: Sr Hilda Scott OSB on stage with young people at ACYF17 (Archdiocese of Sydney/Australian Catholic Bishops Conference)