“It was just letting go and letting God take over,” Ashleigh said. “That was the most freeing thing, because I know that God’s plans for that young person was far greater than what I could have come up with.”
The director for youth of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, Malcolm Hart recounted his own high school years in Western Australia, asking himself what it was that made him feel true joy.
“I thought, if I’m going to do something for the rest of my life, it better bring me and the people around me some happiness,” Malcolm told the crowd.
“And that’s the question I put to you over the next three days.”
He encouraged the young people to extract the maximum amount of learning and discovery out of the festival’s many activities and talks.
“Treat like a Grand Final. Give it everything.
“When you get back on that bus or on that plane, be exhausted. Know that you’ve given it everything you can …
“If you focus on the love and the joy and the mercy of Christ you will be able to affect change … a generation driven by joy.”
Festival goers react
OLSH Kensington teacher Dora Bizannes said her students were thrilled to be part of ACYF and that it was a great way of demonstrating how relevant their religion is today.
She said sharing this experience with not only their friends but with 20,000 other young people was incredible.
“ACYF shows young people how their faith is real in 2017,” she said.
“The opening session really put the young people in a great frame of mind for what’s to come.
“It shows that a faith from ancient times is very real and relevant today.”
Eighteen-year-old Aaron Paiva said ACYF had already been a life-changing experience.
The Seven Hills teenager said he felt great joy knowing he was part of the future of the Church.
“Listening to the plenary today made me so proud to be a Catholic in 2017,” he said.
“Seeing so many young people express their faith in such an open environment with 20,000 others is life changing.”