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Youth fired by the Spirit at Ignite gathering

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Chiara Keady,Youth Worker, Social Media & Young Adults for Ingite Youth speaks at the Ignite Conference in Sydney. Photo: Giovanni Portelli
Chiara Keady,Youth Worker, Social Media & Young Adults for Ingite Youth speaks at the Ignite Conference in Sydney. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

The Ignite Conference returned for the second time to Sydney, following a three-year hiatus due to the pandemic and presented the Catholic faith to young people over an electrifying four days of faith, fun, music and friendship

Under the theme of ‘The Moment’, the event of Ignite Youth, a national Catholic youth ministry of Emmanuel Community in Brisbane, brought together 700 students and young adults from across Sydney and beyond.

People came from as far away as Bathurst, Hobart and Melbourne to take part the dynamic line up of inspirational keynotes and workshops, sacraments, worship, prayer, sport and games, and an expo held at Freeman Catholic College in Bonnyrigg.

“[Bishop Richard Umbers] encouraged the young people to seek closeness to the Lord as a friend and guide and invited them to make the pilgrimage together to World Youth Day in Lisbon next year.”

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Bishop Richard Umbers joined them to give a keynote on using social media in evangelisation titled ‘Memes to an end’ on 30 September and celebrated Mass.

In his homily, he encouraged the young people to seek closeness to the Lord as a friend and guide and invited them to make the pilgrimage together to World Youth Day in Lisbon next year.

Tristian Grichting, 16, said the bishop’s words helped him to understand his faith better.

“I really struggle when everything [about Catholicism] is made to seem so formal, here are the rules and this is what you have to do. So I really liked when the bishop said you can experience God whenever you need to.

The Ignite Conference in Sydney saw hundreds of young people and families sing, pray, learn, discuss and simply spend time with lay Catholic leaders, clergy, religious and seminarians, across four streams of content aimed at different ages over four days. Photo: Giovanni Portelli
The Ignite Conference in Sydney saw hundreds of young people and families sing, pray, learn, discuss and simply spend time with lay Catholic leaders, clergy, religious and seminarians, across four streams of content aimed at different ages over four days. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

“He is God but he’s not unreachable, He’s a person you say hi to and talk to about your problems.”

Lyla Chapman-Croke, 15, said she came along with a group of students from the Bathurst diocese because she had no better offers these school holidays.

“I was nervous because none of my friends wanted to go, but I had nothing else to do so I thought why not? And now I’m here and it’s like the greatest thing I’ve ever done,” she laughed.

“I’ve met a lot of new people and the rallies, the Mass, the keynotes and sessions are all really good and it’s helped me to grow in my own understanding.”

“Highlights included Eucharistic adoration, praise and worship sessions and testimonies of faith.”

The event was supported by many Sydney lay ministry leaders, clergy, religious and seminarians.

They included the Sydney Youth Mission Team, marriage ministry leaders Francine and Byron Pirola, former Amazing Race contestant Sr Therese Mills MGL, the Sydney Centre for Evangelisation’s Sr Anastacia Reeves OP, the SCE director Daniel Ang, and Sydney priest Fr Daniel McCaughan – all also presented keynote sessions or workshops.

Highlights included Eucharistic adoration, praise and worship sessions, and powerful testimonies of faith, with young people queuing to see the several priests who made themselves available for the sacrament of reconciliation.

Bishop Richard Umbers attended and celebrated Mass in the auditorium of Freeman Catholic College in Bonnyrigg, asking the youth to see Jesus Christ as their friend. Sr Therese Mills MGL, right,  addresses the rally last Saturday night, the final night of the conference. Photos: Giovanni Portelli
Bishop Richard Umbers attended and celebrated Mass in the auditorium of Freeman Catholic College in Bonnyrigg, asking the youth to see Jesus Christ as their friend. Sr Therese Mills MGL, right, addresses the rally last Saturday night, the final night of the conference. Photos: Giovanni Portelli

“It’s been such an energising few days, and there’s a sense of excitement to see so many young leaders, students and young adults, celebrating and talking about their faith and life’s mission after a couple years of isolation,” said Mr Ang.

“The language of ‘missionary discipleship’ has been ubiquitous in the life of the Church for almost a decade now, but it risks being a mere sentiment or Platonic ideal unless we provide young people with opportunities for the encounter and decision of faith.

“Not all of the crowd that followed Jesus were disciples. This conference is one of the ways the whole Church can support new generations to discover the Gospel in a real and lasting way.”

“It’s so good to be back in Sydney and making up a small part of the archdiocese’s Go Make Disciples plan for evangelisation …”

Director of Ignite Youth Kym Keady said she was touched by the young people’s open-hearted receptivity, which was evident in their prayerfulness at Mass and Eucharistic adoration, and enthusiasm for the daily praise and worship performances.

“At times in the main room you can feel the Holy Spirit moving very powerfully, they’ve been just amazing,” she said.

“It’s so good to be back in Sydney and making up a small part of the archdiocese’s Go Make Disciples plan for evangelisation and it’s been a privilege to be here and part of the wider family of the Church.”

Youth Mission Team member Sebastian Vinciullo said that conference provided youth an opportunity to encounter God and be exposed to many different charisms and diverse ways of expressing the faith.

Those at the Ignite Conference were encouraged to be attentive to the life-changing moments when God touches their hearts and invites them to go deeper in their faith and witness to others. Photo: Giovanni Portelli
Those at the Ignite Conference were encouraged to be attentive to the life-changing moments when God touches their hearts and invites them to go deeper in their faith and witness to others. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

“Young people can come here and find something that they relate to. Whether they see God working through people, or their stories or performances, in praise and worship music, or the many good works on display at the expo.”

Popular praise and worship musician Fr Rob Galea said that there was an “incredible sense of peace” during the music sessions.

“It seems like the spirit of God was flowing in a way that we could feel,” he said in a keynote for young adults.

“We want to feel like this forever, close to God, full of the Spirit and unashamed of our faith, but like it or not, like the apostles at the Transfiguration, we are going to have to go back down the mountain.

“If you need what you’re getting from this conference, do you think your other friends back at school don’t need it too? What are you going to do about it?”

“When you go back you’ll have to remember these moments because you will need the courage in those moments when you feel angry, alone and depressed.”

He challenged them to witness to God in their daily lives when they returned to their family and friends.

“Will you allow this transfiguration moment to flow on to others who need it? If you need what you’re getting from this conference, do you think your other friends back at school don’t need it too? What are you going to do about it?

“Like scripture says in Jeremiah 29, God has a plan for you, and part of this plan is for you to be a light in this world.”

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