By Matthew Lau
“Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world ablaze” – St Catherine of Siena.
The 2018 Embrace the Grace (ETG) youth conference vitalised some 120 Catholics to bolster their relationship with God.
The attendees, aged 16 to 25, ventured to New Norcia for this year’s ETG from 5 to 9 December for the betterment of their faith journey and to integrate themselves with like-minded souls.
Catholic Youth Ministry (CYM) and Respect Life Office (RLO) co-ordinated the 14th ETG gathering, focussing on the theme that we are “Made for More”.
CYM Acting Director Vincent Haber believes this was one of the best ETGs in recent memory, building momentum for the 2019 Australian Catholic Youth Festival at Perth Convention Centre from 8 to 10 December next year.
Amador Vargas Jr, Dr Paul Morrissey, Knights of the Southern Cross, Sr Rebecca Sampang, Eliza Matthys, Derek Boylen, Fr Robin Koning SJ, Fr Mark Baumgarten, Symon & Michelle Smyth-Kirk, Luke & Montana Bogoni, and Paul Kelly were the guest speakers who inspired those present over the five day conference.
For one of the sessions, the ETG partakers were split by gender into two groups.
Tristan Kolay and Thomas Seeber of the Knights of the Southern Cross WA gave an inspiring talk on how to face challenges as a Catholic man and about masculinity in the Church.
The young women were treated to a discussion about femininity and the importance of wholesomeness, facilitated by Schoenstatt Sr Rebecca Sampang.
Nessya Santoso, CYM Youth Ministry Worker, said the faith-filled five days of joy and worship were hugely beneficial to the young attendees.
“Everything ran really smoothly, I’m really grateful that a lot of different volunteers and leaders have helped in the lead-up and running of this event,” she told The eRecord.
“As event coordinator, I felt comfortable to let them take charge of themselves.
“I felt joyful that the participants have encountered Christ in many different ways.”
It was clear on the last day of the conference, she said, that the attendees departed full of joy and spiritually enriched.
“I think Perth is ready for more – we are ready to welcome a bigger festival that is coming in 2019.
“We know by seeing these participants that they are ready to receive more and learn more about Jesus,” Ms Santoso expressed.
“Listen to the Holy Spirit and do the best that we can as human beings; if we trust in God then we can do greater things.”
Derek Boylen, Director of Catholic Marriage and Fertility Services for the Archdiocese of Perth, was the keynote speaker on 7 December with a focus on “What to do when things don’t go to plan”.
As followers of Christ, he said, we must find means to accept that “somehow God has another plan that I have to adjust to”, and ask oneself: “what is God calling me to in my life?”
“There is so much to our life – failure in one area isn’t a reflection of who I am,” he explained.
“God has a big plan in mind for me, not a little plan.”
Be open to feedback from people who know us well, he added, and when things do not go accordingly to plan, one of the healthiest things we can do is leap into action.
“Stay positive and hope. As Christians, we do hope as a people,” Mr Boylen said.
“What we can learn from the Cross is that He has a plan, and it is His plan.
“We can have faith because nothing can derail God’s plan – it is a good plan, nothing you can do can derail that. He knows you personally, intimately, better than you know yourself.
“God always answers our prayers, sometimes it’s not the answer you expect,” he concluded.