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New campus approach goes for discipleship

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Harrison Payne and Molly Hayes. The Sydney Notre Dame students are part of a new way of thinking about mission focused on discipleship being run through the University of Notre Dame’s chaplaincy. The In Altum program draws on the Archdiocese of Sydney’s Go Make Disciples mission plan. Photo: Adam Wesselinoff
Harrison Payne and Molly Hayes. The Sydney Notre Dame students are part of a new way of thinking about mission focused on discipleship being run through the University of Notre Dame’s chaplaincy. The In Altum program draws on the Archdiocese of Sydney’s Go Make Disciples mission plan. Photo: Adam Wesselinoff

Commitment, prayer, mentoring and mission: a new approach to university chaplaincy at the University of Notre Dame Australia is bringing tradition and experimentation together to help young Catholics become disciples and future leaders.

The In Altum (“into the deep”) program, which began at UNDA’s Fremantle Campus, launched in Sydney in the midst of COVID-19 in December 2020.

Its first intake of students in 2021 committed to pray every day, attend fortnightly formation meetings with chaplaincy staff, receive mentoring, attend a retreat, and take on two and a half hours of evangelisation a week.

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Students workshopped their own ideas for evangelisation with chaplaincy staff, and were responsible for turning their ideas into reality.

Harrison Payne and Molly Hayes, both third year primary education students, said they overcame shyness and worries about time pressure to join the program, and have grown in faith as a result.

“We do it, see it, and can say, ‘That’s something I’ve worked on, and has come to fruition through my work’.”

Mr Payne organised a biweekly poetry group at UNDA, and Ms Hayes joined other students writing letters to nursing home residents under lockdown.

“It’s something we action ourselves, we organise ourselves, and come up with the idea ourselves,” Mr Payne said.

“We do it, see it, and can say, ‘That’s something I’ve worked on, and has come to fruition through my work’.”

Ms Hayes said that before In Altum she attended Mass regularly but now prays daily and enjoys spiritual reading.

“The habits we got from In Altum have been so transferable for me. Prayer especially,” she said. “I made a commitment to prayer, and I’ve kept that commitment now.”

UNDA Sydney Chaplain Fr Reginald Mary Chua said the program drew on the Sydney Centre for Evangelisation’s Go Make Disciples mission plan. PHOTO: Benjamin Conolly
UNDA Sydney Chaplain Fr Reginald Mary Chua said the program drew on the Sydney Centre for Evangelisation’s Go Make Disciples mission plan. PHOTO: Benjamin Conolly

She undertook the “Retreat in Daily Life” run by the Fraternas as part of the program, which introduced her to a richer way of reading and praying with the Scriptures, a skill that has transferred over to her work in the classroom.

“Being a teacher, when I teach kids the Bible I can use those methods to help them engage with the stories in a new way,” Ms Hayes said.

Ms Hayes and Mr Payne said they had become more confident, patient and disciplined as a result of their year with In Altum.

UNDA Sydney Chaplain Fr Reginald Mary Chua said the program drew on the Sydney Centre for Evangelisation’s Go Make Disciples mission plan, by making an attempt to lead young Catholics out of a “temptation to introspection” and into mission and service.

“Students were interested in learning about the faith, going to Mass, but not necessarily in a way oriented to service and leadership,” Fr Chua said.

“The program is about each individual growing in self-knowledge, becoming a better and more committed Christian, which is going to serve them for life.”

“That was the impetus for what became In Altum. When it was introduced here in Sydney it was quite natural to see a connection with Go Make Disciples, which had just come out that year.”

Chaplaincy Coordinator Elizabeth Flynn, a consecrated woman in the Fraternas community, said the program’s mentoring and prayer components gave it a personal focus that made it quite adaptable during 2021’s intermittent COVID-19 lockdowns.

“The program is about each individual growing in self-knowledge, becoming a better and more committed Christian, which is going to serve them for life,” she said.

“The commitment to prayer: we don’t oblige which prayer people do. But I say to them, ‘You can commit to five minutes, but will that really satisfy?’

“You have to be responsible before God! Ultimately this is a program around mission, and there’s no mission without prayer.”

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