Future leaders brainstorm ideas at forum

Students at Leadership Forum
Senior students at the 2018 Archdiocesan Student Leadership Forum (left to right): Samuel Potter, Joseph Mayer, Alexander Durham, Gian Cornale, Daniel McNamara, Alexander Mowbray. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli

Samuel Potter, Year 11 student at St Aloysius College at Milson’s Point, said he found “very worthwhile” the discussions at the Archdiocesan Student Leadership Forum on 21 November.

Most interesting were Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP’s comments on myth-busting the idea of a vocation as being for the “spiritual elite”, he said.

“Our school has a strong focus on careers and excellence in academics, and we’d like to maybe incorporate a focus on vocation-based decision-making in the way the archbishop described as well,” Samuel added.

“It was also really good to meet the leaders of other schools.”

Samuel was one of 200 senior school leaders from systemic and congregational schools in the Archdiocese of Sydney who spent the morning with Archbishop Fisher in St Mary’s Cathedral College Hall.

Students speak to Archbishop Fisher
Students presented the archbishop with their ideas for serving their schools, and growing as leaders. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli

The archbishop gave them feedback from the Synod of Bishops on Youth, Faith and Vocational Discernment held in Rome last month, which he attended as an Australian representative.

They then had the opportunity to workshop with him their ideas about how they might minister to their school communities in 2019.

On the table were ways to promote community-building, authentic friendships and mental health, social outreaches, and develop the prayer life of students.

The archbishop told the young leaders he was impressed by their ideas and encouraged them to decide what they wanted to do with their own lives “sooner rather than later”.

“There are some people that spend 20, 30 years trying to work out what to do with their life, what person they’re going to devote themselves to, what cause they’re going to devote themselves to, and when it finally comes time to make a decision their life has passed them by. They’re old.

Student with candle
Students were presented with a blessed candle to take back to their schools for liturgies there. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli

“I’m not saying you’ve got to decide today, or be really impulsive, but don’t be afraid either. It’s exciting working out what sort of you you want to be and what kind of life you’re going to live with God.”

The “exaggerated, romanticised” talk about vocation today that it is mysterious and hard to figure out is “nonsense” the archbishop said.

“Vocation is God calling you from the day he created you, the day you were baptised, to be yourself, to be the best you can be.

“And that’s going to be in all sorts of diverse ways among you.

“It isn’t a magical or impossibly hard thing that’s only for the spiritually elite—it’s doable, it’s exciting, it’s going to get the best out of you.”

Student leaders at St Mary's Cathedral
Representatives of schools in the Archdiocese of Sydney prayed and spoke with Archbishop Fisher at St Mary’s Cathedral on 21 November. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli

He asked them to remember that “God is mad for love of you, so have no fear, have confidence to make those big and small decisions”.

Julia Babic, Year 12 student at Trinity Catholic College, said the forum was “insightful, engaging and meaningful as we as individuals were able to interact and form bonds with other college leaders, as well as answering questions that greatly challenged our faith”.

Archbishop Fisher gave each of the students a copy of his latest book, My Dear Young Friend: Letters of Youth, Faith and Future.

The forum concluded with a prayer service in the Cathedral where students received a blessed candle to take back to their school communities.

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