If young people are looking to tap into something bigger than themselves and experience “unmatched joy”, they should sign up for the Australian Catholic Youth Festival, says American speaker, musician and worship leader Emily Wilson, one of the headline speakers at the event.
Emily, 28, is one of the most sought-after Catholic speakers around the globe, and says she can’t wait to bring her unique blend of music, gospel witness and love to Australia for the ACYF.
“I’m really excited. It’s my first trip to Australia,” she says.
“I’m going to be giving a couple of women’s sessions at the ACYF. I’ll also be giving general sessions about some of my favourite Scripture stories and their impact on our lives today.”
Born and bred in southern California, Emily grew up in a household where faith was important and music was a constant feature.
“My family is very musical, so I grew up playing music and that was the one thing everyone knew about our family, that we were musical,” she laughs.
At age 7, Emily was encouraged by her teacher to get up and sing in front of the whole church and with continued support from her high school choir teacher, she began to lead music regularly.
Emily studied Journalism and Broadcasting at Arizona State University, as well as Music, and had ambitions to become a sports broadcaster.
“I’d set my sights on working for ESPN but that all got derailed a little bit by God’s plan for my life,” she says.
“At the end of College, I picked up an Apostolic Letter from Saint Pope John Paul II, called On the Dignity and Vocation of Women, and in it I read for the first time about authentic femininity and true womanhood. “He talked about what it really means to be a woman, especially in light of what our culture is telling us about being a woman.
“My school in Arizona was known as one of the top party schools and I had seen a lot of brokenness, so this Apostolic Letter was a huge revelation. It inspired me to devote my life to sharing this message but I didn’t know how that was going to happen.”
Out of the blue, Emily received a call from the Campus Minister at her old high school who was looking to hire an assistant.
“I got the job and I worked with teenage girls every day for the next two years and in that time, my career in public speaking also began to grow,” she says.
“I’ve now been travelling and doing full-time ministry for the past four years. It’s been a wild ride.”
Emily says one of the things she loves most about her ministry is seeing God’s action in people’s lives.
“I love seeing young people realise how much God loves them,” she says. “It’s the privilege of seeing light bulbs go off when they realise the love God has for them. And for me, seeing that will never get old.”
Emily says that for anyone still unsure whether to attend the ACYF, from 7-9 December in Sydney, she can guarantee it will be an unforgettable experience.
“I would just invite them, with an open heart, to come and join us, because I have been to many of these beautiful events and the joy they will experience there is unmatched,” she says.
“The people there will be alive and vibrant, so if they’re looking for something bigger than themselves, if they want to be around true love, joy and peace, I guarantee that’s what you will find at ACYF.”
To register for ACYF visit: www.acyf.org.au
Full registrations $280