If the Church in Sydney wants people in its parishes in 20 years’ time, then it needs to invest in its young people in a sustained and serious way, according to Sydney Archdiocese’s new director of youth.
Chris Lee spoke to The Catholic Weekly in the lead up to the 8 November launch of the Archdiocese’s new youth office, Sydney Catholic Youth, about his vision for youth ministry – one that doesn’t “silo” young people away from the rest of the Church.
With All Saints in Liverpool as its host, the launch is shaping up to be an event of sizeable proportions, with live music and food, and cultural festivities provided by Sydney Catholics of Polynesian, Asian, Middle Eastern and South American descent.
All four of Sydney’s bishops – Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP, Bishop Richard Umbers (Episcopal Vicar for Evangelisation), Bishop Terry Brady and Bishop Tony Randazzo – will be there on the night, which will kick off with Mass at 6pm.
Chris says it will be a night for the ages and that he hopes to see as many young people there as possible – and also, families. “Families are the most important part (of youth ministry),” Chris said. “The number one educators are really the parents. They’re the ones who are going to be encouraging it.”
His strategy, one honed while building up the successful men’s organisation, Conviction Group, is informed by three principles: planning for sustainability, “closing the gap” and personal invitation.
“I love St Mary’s Cathedral, I think it’s beautiful, but the Archdiocese goes all the way out to Bonnyrigg, and all the way out to Engadine, and then all the way out to Eastwood,” Chris said.
“If we want to create things in those areas, then the youth office has to decentralise and go into those areas to build up young leaders who can create groundswell.”
Creating “groundswell”, he said, is about building local momentum by forming young people to take “responsibility for their area, being proud of that, being proud to be Catholic and understanding what that is”.
“Closing the gap” refers his desire to break down the impolitic but all too real divisions that exist between the life of faith and the secular world, between some parishes and some schools, and between some youth groups and the rest of their respective communities.
But it is a personal invitation that holds pride of place in Chris’s hopes for the future.
“A lot of people place a lot of stress on marketing, but really, the most effective way for young people to come to the faith is by a personal invitation. And that needs to be our number one priority. How do we be in a thousand places at once? We personally invite people.”
More information about the Sydney Catholic Youth launch is available on the SCY Facebook page: