Give students free reign at a microphone and you never know what you’re going to get.
That’s what Archbishop Anthony Fisher found out when he invited 70 senior students from 34 schools to his place for lunch to hear their views on life, faith, and the Church.
Archbishop Anthony welcomed the youngsters as part of a series of lunches he is holding at Cathedral House for Sydney Catholic Schools.
At the first lunch he was joined by Auxiliary Bishop Richard Umbers, who oversees the eastern region and then Auxiliary Bishop Terry Brady and students from his inner west patch for the second.
“It’s great to have you in my house and hear your thoughts on how you are feeling,” Archbishop Anthony said during the discussion which was held without teachers so the teenagers could feel they could be truly frank and honest.
Some students told the bishops they were feeling the Church had failed in addressing many of the issues affecting them as Catholics today.
Archbishop Anthony said he could only apologise “to anybody who feels the Church has let them down in educating them on the rationale behind the stance of the Church on topics like gay marriage, abortion and euthanasia,” he said.
When asked what would he would do if it were proved that God does not exist he said he would have to leave his office.
“Let me be very clear on this, I am in this because it is true. I’m not in this for the power, prestige, or the funny hat.
“I am convinced deep in my heart that it is true. If it could be proven to me beyond reasonable doubt that it isn’t true, I have to get out and do and believe what’s true.
“That doesn’t mean I don’t have my doubts and difficulties like everyone else.”
He told the students that they are not the future of the Church, but its present.
“You need to be giving an example to others, reaching out to the poor and disadvantaged, praying and worshipping God right now.”
He also urged the students to appreciate their Catholic education and to let their principals know if they wanted more space to ponder and discuss issues relating to faith at school.
“Although I will say the Church is not just the school, it is also your family, your parish and your diocese as well, if you aren’t getting the answers you desire, go and find them,” he said.
Marist Brother’s Kogarah student Jamie Laskovski said it was encouraging to hear the Archbishop tackle the “hard questions” in an open and honest way.
“It really was a fantastic afternoon hearing about how we can live our Catholic faith,” said the Year 12 student.
Alexia Isaac, vice captain of Trinity Catholic College Auburn, said she was inspired by the input from the bishops and vocational and youth leaders.
“The question and answer session got me thinking that what is important is not just what we think about what is lacking in the Church and what can be done better for us at an individual level.
“As young people going out and starting our next journey as young adults in society the challenge for us is how to become more connected with God, and through that, being more connected with others and making a better society.”
Vocations director Fr Epeli Qimaqima, Sydney Catholic Youth team leader, Chris Lee, and Australian Catholic Students Association leader, Chris Wilks, were also on hand to speak to the students know about their post-school faith journey.
The lunch series is one of the Year of Youth activities, and Archbishop Anthony said he was hoping to gain ideas to present at the Bishops’ Synod in Rome in October.
A third lunch for southern region students will be held in June.