By Josh Low
For Whitford Parish youth leader Johannes (Joey) Alexander, the Australian Catholic Youth Festival (ACYF) held in Sydney was an incredible experience which allowed him to deepen his relationship with God and inspired him to know more about the Catholic faith.
Born in Jakarta and adopted by a married Catholic couple, Joey explained that his upbringing had been of great importance as he was brought to Church and introduced to the faith at a young age.
“In my teenage years however, I wasn’t practising the faith – I was in a Catholic school, but wasn’t practising the faith to its fullness,” Joey said.
“I wasn’t utilising the sacraments and didn’t truly understand what it meant to be at Mass.”
Joey said that only after serving two years of national service in Singapore and returning to Australia did he realise that there was ‘somehow a need that yearned to be fulfilled’, and began his journey to a deeper commitment to the Catholic faith.
“I hadn’t gone to Mass for those two years, because I was alone in Singapore without my family and so caught up with daily life,” he said.
After speaking to priests, as well as friends who took their Catholic faith seriously, Joey said he realised that this relationship with God was vital and had to be deepened, not just to improve his own faith but to be a witness to those around him.
“Deep in my heart I had a great sense of yearning and connecting that I needed to fulfil.
”I knew I had a Church, a community that I belonged to and a family; people who were connected to the faith.
“I know now that continually building that relationship is important instead of just standing idly by, and I want to use the gifts and talents God has given me to help other young people discover and deepen their own relationship with Christ,” he said.
Joey said ACYF has inspired him in what he does for youth ministry for Whitford Parish.
“This is my first time at a Catholic youth festival of this scale, and I saw that there were areas in youth ministry that I needed to improve.
“This is definitely something young people need, but also something we need as youth leaders as we sometimes in youth ministry while focusing on the youth, forget that we need spiritual nourishment and to grow in our faith too.”
He added that some of the highlights of ACYF were the opportunities to observe and listen to people he looked up to and said he has gained a deeper appreciation for prayer.
“Music plays a big part in my life and fills me with joy, so to be in the presence of people like Matt Maher, Steve Angrisano and Fr Rob Galea, hearing them sing and their testimonies of faith has been incredibly special,” Joey said.
“Prayer is also something that we don’t do often enough because maybe we feel like we don’t have the time, but this journey in ACYF has definitely helped me a lot more in my prayer life.
“For every day that we’ve been at ACYF, myself and a group of guys made the commitment to pray the Rosary, to make the effort and the time to pray and respond to God, as well as ask Our Lady and the saints for their intercession,” Joey said.
“I’ve gained a lot more patience and an appreciation for times of quietness; to find stillness and peace in moments where there is so much going on, and to not be shy to actually stay back after Mass in Church to spend some quiet time in prayer to continue trying to cultivate that relationship with God and become closer to Him.”
“I’ve found it has been a great thing to do because God is always so open to us, we should make time for Him as well and open ourselves to discerning His will for us in our life,” he concluded.