It was the first Friday night in December and hundreds of young people were queuing for entry, not to a club but for confession, at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Randwick.
The confessional queues grew at the end of a night of praise, worship and Eucharistic adoration hosted by the archdiocese’s eastern deanery evangelisation team for 340 people across the city—mostly young adults but also parents with their children and older parishioners.
Twelve priests, including the parish’s own Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, could hardly keep up with the number of those who, personally touched by a night of worship music, prayer and personal testimony, wanted to approach the sacrament.
“The queue for reconciliation was overwhelming,” said coordinator Janice Fernandes.
“Every corner in the church and carpark was used for reconciliation stations, and we delayed the end of the evening to make sure everyone had the opportunity who wanted it.
“We also had two prayer teams offering to pray with people, and they were inundated as well until well after the event was meant to be over.
“About eight young people walk into the church from the street, attracted by the beautifully lighted altar and music, and some of them stayed until the end.”
Beginning with an acknowledgement of country by Randwick Mayor Philipa Veitch and ending with a supper of pizzas and other treats, the EastFest praise and worship event was a highlight on the calendar for the eastern deanery team of young volunteers, all on fire to share their Catholic faith and create community.
Popular singer-songwriter priest Fr Rob Galea shared his own faith journey and led attendees in song, before a talk on Eucharistic adoration by Broken Bay vocations director Fr Sam French.
One young attendee was most impressed by Fr Rob’s testimony about his struggle with anxiety and stress and what it has taught him about God’s mercy and love.
“His talk was very authentic and him being open about his own struggles made me feel like it was ok for me to be struggling,” he said.
“It really helped me. I went to reconciliation because he inspired me.”
The evening drew together Catholic groups, clergy and religious orders from around Sydney including the Sisters of the Immaculata, Legion of Mary, and Indonesian, Chinese and Tongan Catholic chaplaincies.
Eastern deanery team member Md Naderuzzaman Rana said it was amazing to listen to Fr Rob talk about his own struggles.
“Having been born and raised in a strong Muslim faith and converting to Catholicism, I too have had a challenging journey, and it is not always easy to speak about it openly,” he said.
“It was amazing to so many young adults there and to be able to assist on the night as part of Janice’s team.”
Even though EastFest has run annually or twice annually for a number of years, Fernandes said it was still “amazing to see so many young people attending and feeling the joy with Jesus.”
“We hope to celebrate the diversity and richness of the Catholic community, so that those who attend will feel that as Catholics they are part of something big and beautiful,” she said.