By Jamie O’Brien
Western Australian youth were last week invited to be open to anything that the Lord might seek to do in their lives by Perth Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB.
Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB was speaking to the nearly 200 youth, who were aged between 16 and 30 during Mass at Mary Mackillop Chapel, North Sydney, where they had gathered to celebrate the impending start of the 2017 Australian Catholic Youth Festival, from 7 to 9 December.
Joined by Perth Auxiliary Bishop Don Sproxton and Leader of the Ordinariate, the Very Rev Mgr Harry Entwistle and several priests, Archbishop Costelloe spoke about the words of St Mary of the Cross Mackillop, when she said, ‘Never see a need without doing something about it.’
“We need to be people like that, and that means we need to have eyes that are open, because you won’t even see the needs, if you’re eyes aren’t open, and how can you respond if you haven’t seen the need in the first place,” Archbishop Costelloe said.
The Archbishop went on to talk about another of St Mary Mackillop’s sayings, which he explained is maybe not so famous, but definitely just as important.
“She said, ‘Try to remember who it is you’re following’. And it’s when you put the two sayings together that you begin to understand how St Mary McKillop became a great figure in our history that she is, and how any of us, can hope to live up to her first saying. It’s by also remembering the second saying,” he said.
Christians are nothing, exclaimed Archbishop Costelloe, if they’re not first and foremost, people who’ve committed themselves to following Jesus.
“Nothing else about our faith makes any sense at all, if that’s not there at the heart.
“All the rules, all the regulations, all the traditions, all of those things, important though they are, won’t make sense to anybody, won’t make sense to any of us in the end, if we don’t look at them and understand them, think about them, as ways in which we follow Jesus.
The following day, the WA youth joined some 20,000 young people who were urged to set the world on fire with their faith.
The Festival officially kicked off with a Welcome to Country, followed by Canadian Catholic music star Matt Maher blasting the stage in praise of Jesus, and Archbishop Anthony Fisher’s opening address.
Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher, who is Bishops’ Delegate for Youth, challenged the young people present to follow the example of Mary and “Say Yes” to the plans God has for their lives and he reminded them of Pope Francis’ call for young people not to live as couch potatoes.
“Get up off the couch and you’ll be able to see further as well as do more,” he said. “And that new horizon that is opened up will be a source of joy for you and for others. Say a Marian YES, an in-God-I-trust YES, a with-all-my-heart YES, a for-today-and-always YES to God and see what He can do with you.”
Speaking at a press conference afterwards, Archbishop Fisher said he was enlivened by the faith of the young people on display during the Festival opening.
“It was just wonderful,” he said. “The young people were on fire with faith from the very beginning. Right from the start, you sensed the Holy Spirit among them, their love for the Church, and their hopes.”
Grammy-nominated Matt Maher, who plays at youth festivals around the world and is in Australia for the third time, said he believes such gatherings help young people to meet their struggle for a sense of identity and belonging.
“To belong to something bigger than yourself, and to ask who am I and what’s my place in the world,” Mr Maher said.
“All it takes is a few people exhibiting the joy of Jesus and that joy is infectious and gives that sense of belonging and being part of a narrative that’s bigger than ourselves.”
Archbishop Fisher continued by saying his hope for the Festival is that the young pilgrims will have an encounter with Jesus and a conversion of heart that will impact their lives.
“I hope we will be sending 20,000 young people away full of God, on their way to being saints, and ready to change the world,” he said.
“If our young people can hear, can encounter Jesus Christ in these three days, I think that’s very important. I think it’s very important that we’re having ACYF here at this time in Australia.”