Media and Communications Office
As part of the Year of Youth, the Church is this week reaching out in a tangible way to young people throughout the Melbourne Archdiocese.
In an initiative of Catholic Education Melbourne and the Archdiocesan Office for Youth, Melbourne auxiliary Bishop Mark Edwards is hosting a series of School Forums across Melbourne.
In Dandenong (Monday), Altona (Tuesday), Box Hill (Thursday) and Epping (Friday), dozens of school groups gathered from the entire Archdiocese are coming together to meet personally with Church leaders, where young people are encouraged to discuss issues, put forward their concerns and their own vision for the future.
As Bishop Edwards stated in his invitation to participate, ‘One of the goals of the Year of Youth is that young people be listened to.
‘An important part of this process will be small groups where students will share their experiences and be listened to by a Church leader.’
In his own address to students, before the schools divide up into groups of around eight for personal discussion, Bishop Edwards speaks of his own journey of formation, exhorting young people to identify and give themselves over wholly to their intuitions, to their inner promptings, to their passions.
‘That’s God’s way of working in and through you,’ he reminds his audience. ‘Be aware of that call from God and give yourself totally to the task he asks of you.’
He also urges his young audiences to be saints. ‘It’s ok for you to totally trust God,’ he encourages. ‘When you do that, like the saints, you won’t lose yourself, you’ll find yourself, you’ll find God, and you’ll find peace and joy.
‘Be like Peter on Galilee,’ Bishop Edwards urges. ‘You’ll be looked after. Follow your heart. You won’t sink in the storm, ever.’
A particular focus of the Church at this time, affirms Bishop Mark, is its quest for new leaders, strong leaders, with vision, with courage, boldly to take the Church forward. ‘Not just the Church, but families need leaders too,’ says the Bishop. ‘You guys here today, you can be leaders in your own families, in your schools, in your communities. So go right ahead … lead!
‘You know what’s right, and you have the courage and the grace to do it. So do it.’
As well as Bishop Mark Edwards, the School Forum each day this week is also being geared around a musical and inspirational presentation by American musician, storyteller, evangelist Steve Angrisano, who accompanies his songs and energised guitar playing with anecdotes and powerful stories designed to inspire young people.
He also hosts a wild (and very engaging) version of ‘Simon Says’.
The second hour of each day’s session is given over to a series of small groups, where each young person shares their experiences in a candid, open, informal, personal discussion and is listened to by a Church leader, who takes copious notes, all of which are thencollected at the end of each day to form a comprehensive report to Bishop Edwards and the Church hierarchy, as a powerful guide for the Church in creating its framework for the upcoming Catholic Plenary Council in 2020.
Bishop Mark also faces a Q & A session at the end of the individual group session, where, again, he is given a very direct insight into the concerns, opinions and thought processes of the young people across the Archdiocese.
Schools hosting the Forum this week are St John’s Regional College Dandenong, Mount St Joseph’s College Altona, Our Lady of Sion College Box Hill and St Monica’s College Epping.
Bishop Edwards encourages young people everywhere to get involved with their Church.
‘We need you young people like never before,’ he says. ‘We need you as leaders. We want to know what you think. We want to listen to you and engage with you. So speak up!’
He concludes, ‘who are the people who inspire you, who make your heart jump? Be like them … make the Church jump!’