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Saturday, May 25, 2024
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Sydney students alive with Purpose

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Young people across Sydney are ‘on fire’ with the Holy Spirit, sparking soaring attendance rates at Catholic youth events, and growing calls for youth ministry and formation in schools.

Following their hugely successful Purpose Conference in December last year, the Sydney Catholic Youth (SCY) team has seen record expressions of interest for them to attend schools and host events, as exhibited at the team’s annual Purpose Camp last week.

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In a time meant for sleep-ins, catch-ups and movie marathons, more than 120 teenagers instead took time out of their school holidays for Christ at this year’s Purpose Camp, which was the maximum capacity for the event.

Students from Year 9-12 rushed to book their places at the three days annual archdiocesan youth camp last week, facilitated by the SCY team, camp chaplain Fr Bijoy Joseph, and soon to be ordained seminarian Justin Faehrmann.

The hugely successful camp follows five months on from SCY’s inaugural Purpose Conference last December, which saw almost 2000 teens and young adults come together to witness faith from international formators like Matt Fradd and Jason Evert.

The SCY team continued to witness the Holy Spirit at work during the camp at a packed-out Benedict XVI Retreat Centre, which many teens attested was the perfect way to keep the fire burning.

Youth at the purpose camp. Photo: supplied

“I attended Purpose Conference last year and when I saw the flyer for the camp, I paused everything I was doing to sign up. I knew based on the conference that three days at camp would be perfect for me” shared a Year 11 student from Trinity Catholic College, Auburn.

Others who were totally new to the experience of faith left the camp with a genuine and deep desire for more.

One year 10 student from Marist Sisters’ Woolwich was initially “not entirely open to the camp, but as it progressed, I opened myself more to the experience of God, which produced such a powerful and overwhelming feeling.”

Games and competitions, music and bonfires, Eucharistic adoration and confession, a candlelit rosary procession, faith talks and discussions, laughs and tears of joy, and of course, beautiful solemn sung masses, had the teens hesitating to get back on buses to head home.

“Jesus wiped away the fear I had about the world. I realised during all-night adoration that true love has no fear, and to God nothing is impossible” said one participant from St Aloysius, Milson’s Point.

“During the last mystery of the rosary procession (the crucifixion) when we were all kneeling on the hill at the foot of the cross, I really felt God’s love over me and how much he loves us,” said another student from Freeman Catholic College.

Kneeling during the last mystery of the rosary at the Purpose Camp. Photo: supplied

Participants were deeply appreciative of an experience that watered the seeds that were initially planted in their hearts at the Purpose Conference.

“There should be no hesitation whatsoever to offer the Catholic faith in its fullness to young people, and the SCY team use every opportunity possible to do that”, said SCY team leader Milad Khalil.

“The openness, growth, healing and pure joy we have witnessed among thousands of youth over the last few months has been an absolute blessing and joy. We really do have the incredible privilege of seeing how God works in the lives of all we minister to.”

Camp chaplain Fr Bijoy shared a similar sentiment.

“As chaplain, it was encouraging to see how much the kids were thirsting for God. So many had thought-filled and profound questions about the faith,” said Fr Bijoy.

“They want something so much deeper than what the prevailing culture can offer. We must not be afraid to challenge students to grow in faith rather than water down faith’s requirements.”

Special thanks also go to the Mission and Identity directorate from Sydney Catholic Schools for supporting students from SCS schools through ticket subsidies.

The Sydney Catholic Youth team will now continue the journey of faith with camp participants through their Purpose High program, where they offer ongoing formation to high school students.

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