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Youth leaders dream big after ACU’s Signum Fidei faith formation program

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ACU students Samuel Franklin and Christina Campagna with Year 8 students from St Agnes Primary School in Suva, Fiji. Photo: ACU

A faith formation program at Australian Catholic University is inspiring young teachers and youth ministry leaders to unleash the Holy Spirit in Catholic schools and other church settings in new ways.

Sydney Catholic Christina Campagna says that after 10 days in Fiji as part of the university’s Signum Fidei [signs of faith] Catholic Life and Mission program she’s now dreaming much bigger about what is possible to achieve in our Catholic school classrooms.

The primary education student recently returned from her mission experience with a group of fellow students, early career teachers and youth ministers from across the country.

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In Fiji the young adult faith leaders encountered six Catholic primary and secondary schools, shared the Gospel with around 3000 students, and worked with 170 school and youth ministry leaders and senior students in a two-day evangelisation school.

They were blown away by the faith of the educators and many of the students they encountered, and the way prayer and meditation is gently woven into the school day.

“The trip opened my eyes to a new way of teaching and developing a school culture centred around prayer and made me so excited to be a teacher one day,” Ms Campagna said.

“It was honestly life-changing, it’s also changed my perspective on life and the way we live to see them all so happy with such simple lives.”

Like Christina, Sofia Mifsud and Sam Franklin study at the university’s Strathfield campus.

Both are preparing for careers in secondary schools and returned to Sydney similarly confirmed in their teaching vocations by their Fiji immersion experience.

“I think in Australia, especially in the secular world, it’s easy for us to fall into thinking what we do as teachers is unseen and unappreciated.

We can also get so caught up with teaching curriculum that we can neglect the spiritual and emotional development of our students,” said Ms Mifsud.

“I think this trip really brought me to understand that you can do all that and also challenge the students to raise the emotional and spiritual side as well, which actually motivates them to do better in their academics and curriculum.

“And that’s what elevates your vocation as a Catholic teacher—we’re looking beyond simply our pay and social status.

“The Holy Spirit is really moving around our leaders and students and they often just need a little bit more support to really set the world on fire.”

ACU student Sophia Mifsud with students. Photo: ACU

Mr Franklin said he was surprised by the similarities in the school environments of the two countries.

“There is a focus on educating the whole student in Australia but to see it lived out in Fiji was really nice,” he said.

“Clearly they are onto something because to see a class of 40 or 50 kids who are so calm and present, and the work that they’re doing so well while being able to have such a big place for faith in their classrooms is really inspiring.”

The program was launched in 2017 by the university’s La Salle Academy for Faith Formation and Religious Education to provide opportunities to complement its academic initial teacher education programs.

It aims at developing the faith and missionary leadership skills of participants who will take Catholic education and church communities into the 21st century as centres of evangelisation.

Trish McCarthy, the Signum Fidei national coordinator at ACU, said that over a year, beginning with an initial retreat experience, it gives young adult Catholics an opportunity of conversion and to develop a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, before empowering them to take responsibility for evangelisation within the church.

“I was quite astounded at their love, their unity, their generosity of heart and just their openness to engage in the whole experience,” she said of the Fiji immersion group.

“It was incredibly inspiring and provided a lot of hope for the future of our schools and the future of the church as well as our international relations and mutual sharing of our faith throughout Oceania.”

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