Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP challenged students from Our Lady of Mercy College in Burraneer to take up the baton as the Church’s next leaders on his recent visit.
The group of Year 10 students at the all-girls’ school met with the Archbishop on 22 October and engaged in a relaxed and candid discussion covering everything from his experience as a priest and bishop, popular culture, faith, the Catholic Church, and their dreams and worries for the future.
The archbishop, answering anonymous questions from the students written on slips of paper, told them that it is up to women “whether the Church continues to exist or not”.
“The biggest single factor in the continued existence of the Church is whether mothers transmit the faith to their children.
“Of course fathers matter to the family as well but…in a sense, it is women who will decide whether there will be a Church a generation from now, whether they’re going to transmit the faith or not.”
The Archbishop challenged the students to bring their own “wisdom and energy” to the life of the Church to help it move confidently into the future.
“How is the Church going to respond well to all that is happening at such a rapid pace of change if we don’t have people like you to tell us how, [being] involved in the Church, being our leaders, our inspirers?” he asked them.
“Part of the reason a lot of old guys like me miss you at Mass and at other parts of the Church’s life is that we wonder how are we going to deal with the big questions of today without your wisdom and your energy?
“We need you young people in the Church to connect us with the world that’s coming and is already here and to bring your ideals and your energy to its life.”
Archbishop Fisher said it was a brave thing for young people these days to stand up against often overwhelming pressure to take a pro-choice stance on abortion and euthanasia that go to the heart of the dignity of a human person.
“I was very impressed during the recent debates about abortion laws in NSW that at the big pro-life rallies there were mostly young adults,” he said. “That was very promising to me.”
Archbishop Fisher, who holds a doctorate in bioethics, also encouraged the students to reject “expectations that are impossible” around body image which are possibly greater than ever before due to social media.
Asked “Why does everyone want what they don’t have, in terms of appearance?” he told them that “it’s good to take your body seriously” but above all to remember that “God made you beautiful and good”.
“To look your best, eat well, look after your health is important…but we’ve all got to learn to love our bodies, to be comfortable with the body we’ve been given and to not be ashamed or wishing I was something else,” he said.
“These are anxieties imposed on us by our culture that we have to get over because you shouldn’t be anxious about who you are in your body.”