Media and Communications Office
A gathering of generations from around Melbourne came together for a youth-focused panel discussion at Spirituality at the Pub at St Andrew’s Hotel in Fitzroy this week.
The night was emceed by key organizer Del Durrant who had a part in sourcing the panel for the evening called ‘Voices for Youth’, and the topic was around what these speakers felt about the future of the Catholic Church.
Spirituality in the Pub nights (SIP) began in 1995 instituted by the Catalyst for Renewal Inc to create useful dialogue in the Church.
‘The speakers for the night came from various walks in life, all with the common denominator of faith and youth,’ Del said.
The questions posed to the panel of the evening were ‘what do you think of the church today?’ and ‘what are your hopes and dreams of what the church can be?’
The general consensus among the group was centered around a desire for the church to be more about community and service and more aligned with Jesus of Nazareth’s teachings.
‘I believe there are other ways in my life I can still be a part of Church, be spiritual and be connected with God,’ said Gabby, a Maths and Engineering student from Melbourne University.
Despite being an irregular attendee at Mass, Gabby said she exercises her faith through volunteering her time with a charity organisation in Perth called Cana.
‘I believe this is the future. It is our church. Going to Mass is a way of saying thank you to God, but I also find this connection through community, helping others and thinking of the less advantaged than ourselves.’
Luke, a Catholic Religious, spoke about his thoughts on the future of the Church.
‘I may express a bias here in favour of the Eucharist, but in the Eucharist I find the answer to "does being Christian make a difference?" and "does being a Religious make a difference?" It's also necessary when envisioning what Church we will look like in ten years’ time.’ The Eucharist works because it’s about crisis,’ he said.
‘And it’s about what we can do in a crisis. The first thing is a Eucharist is and should be welcoming, inclusive and healing. Jesus didn’t put restrictions on which disciples could participate or on how they could participate.’
Alicia Deeak is a secondary teacher of Religious Education and Religion and Society at St Ignatious College in Geelong, and is currently studying a Master of Theology. She spoke about the different society in which the younger generation is contending with.
‘I grew up in a climate where a judgmental Church warned about being a "cafeteria Catholic" and I believe this resulted in many young people my age leaving the church. Discussion was not as open as it is today,’ Alicia said.
‘I believe that young people today fear if they do not fit into the catechetical mold of the Catholic church that they are no longer welcome, and I think this needs to change. For me, a Catholic is someone who lives out the gospel values, who loves and serves others, who gives a voice to the marginalised, and all for the greater glory of God. For me, my model is Jesus who lived for love, respect, peace and equality.’
Antonio Huon, a university student from Vietnam and Head Sacristan at St Patrick’s Cathedral also spoke at the panel. He referred to a cultural parallel in values with regards to the Faith he witnesses in Melbourne compared to what he grew up with in his own country.
‘I’ve spoken to a lot of friends and not many people are interested in talking about the Catholic church. Online, on social media and things you’ve probably come across a lot of comments on the Catholic Church but it never stopped me from coming to church or having my Faith,’ he said.
Antonio referred to the strong Catholic values he had growing up in a family of five back in Vietnam.
‘We’d go to mass every morning at 4.30am. We’d wake up at 4am and go straight to church. And even after work we go back to the Church and have our thank you Mass after each day,’ he said.
‘I advise some of the young people when they come and talk to me about their own issues. But I often tell them to go to their Catholic parish because if they found a leader to help lead their spiritual life, I’ve found (from my own experience) that it gives you a bit of direction.’
The evening concluded with a Q and A session, with a number of questions around women leadership in the church.
‘I think there’s a lot of possibility and potential in our church,’ said Alicia. ‘And I think we need to look at how we can tap into that.’