No question was off limits when Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP welcomed senior students from Sydney Catholic Schools to his home for lunch on Tuesday.
The 40 representatives from schools in the archdiocese’s inner western region took the opportunity to pick the brain and probe the heart one of the Australia’s senior leaders, engaging him on a variety of subjects close to their own hearts in relation to the Church and the Catholic faith.
The Year 11 and 12 students sought the archbishop’s thoughts on how to bring faith to suffering, the difference between love and lust, the disappearance of Christians from the Middle East and of religious men and women from Catholic schools. They also advised him on what ways they thought the Church could change to better reach out to and engage today’s youth.
The archbishop told the young people that his debilitating encounter with Guillain-Barre syndrome brought him a deeper understanding of human suffering, himself and God.
“It was an experience of total disability and total dependency,” he said.
“I couldn’t do anything for myself, I couldn’t wash myself. It was humiliating, painful and ugly. But dependency is the lot of a human being, and part of the glory of a human being is being there for each other.”
Religious men and women are a “gift to the country” and are still sorely needed while “something akin to a Christian genocide” is occurring in some countries of the Middle East during our lifetimes, the archbishop said.
University Catholic Chaplaincies’ Tony Mattar and Sydney Catholic Youth’s Chris Lee encouraged students to continue their faith journey post-school by tapping into the support offered throughout the city’s campuses, parishes and local groups.
Rosebank College, Five Dock, student Rowan O’Callaghan said he was impressed at the archbishop’s interest in engaging with young people through social media. Grace Tahhan from Southern Cross Vocational College said she enjoyed the “interesting and eye-opening” afternoon with like-minded youth leaders, while her fellow student Matthew Smith appreciated the respectful and non-judgemental tone of the discussion.
The 14 May event was the first of three lunches hosted by the archbishop for students from Sydney Catholic Schools, in what has become an annual informal encounter with the Archbishop Fisher and student leaders.
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Genevieve Cutler, Sydney Catholic School’s secondary leader of learning and religious education for the inner west region, said she enjoyed seeing the rapport and mutual respect between the archbishop and students, and the students with each other.
“They like the fact that he can meet him where they are, and I think he touched hearts today,” she said.