Young people crave authentic Catholic spirituality and Ivica Kovač can prove it.
The head of the pastoral council at the St Anthony’s Croatian Catholic Centre at Summer Hill has introduced a Theology of the Body course to its youth group with spectacular results.
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The community has been keeping the momentum going after its young people attended the Australian Catholic Youth Festival last December and loved it.
Each Sunday evening more than 30 young people meet for a meal and a session of the You: Love, Life and Theology of the Body course.
The multi-media resource for teenagers produced by Ascension Press explores the Catholic Church’s vision of human identity, sexuality and love.
“The reaction from participants has been nothing short of phenomenal,” said Mr Kovač.
“I had a phone call from a father of 16-year-old daughter who comes home every Sunday evening full of life and glowing and saying everything [the Church teaches about sexuality] makes sense, and he said ‘I think I need to learn a bit about this’ myself.
“That kind of reaction hasn’t been uncommon.”
Youth group facilitator Sarah Šimić, 24, said the course has been answering deep questions of young people that they do not get answers to from pop culture and the media.
“The Croatian Catholic community has been trying to get the youth more involved, try to give them a deeper understanding of the beauty of the faith, so they have an interest in coming along to church, and that’s exactly what’s happened here,” Sarah said.
“We want to help create that spiritual independence, so they are here not because their parents wanted them to come but because they have a desire to.
“A lot of them have had light bulb moments through this course, especially on the issue of contraception and said ‘I can finally understand why the Church has that point of view that it does’’.
At first they were a little bit scared to open up but now they all have questions about sex, abortion, social media, and so on and we try to tackle those.
“We fast-tracked the course in five instead of the recommended 10 weeks, and want to do it again next year, maybe in more depth.”
Course participant Tiana, 16, said it was highly practical and inspired her to look for a future partner “who really values me in a very loving way and not as an object”.
See related story: “If you have a body, Theology of the Body applies to you.”
“I wanted to increase my knowledge of the Catholic religion, and I had thought the Church was very harsh, but it’s actually very loving and nurturing,” she said.
“The media portrays it as something outdated, but really it just transcends time.”
Tina, 17, said she enjoyed discussing “real-life scenarios and real people’s experiences”.
“It made me realise that you really need to find someone who has their own morals and whose beliefs mirror yours so you can grow together.” she said.
Ante and Luke, both 16, agreed.
“It’s opened our minds to what love really is, when you will do things for people you love not just because you want to or when you don’t want to,” said Ante.
Luke said after initial reluctance to join the course it has made him “very proud of our faith”.
“I want to become a dad one day and have a family, and I want to get more involved in the Church and with my faith,” he said.