For as long as I can remember I have been very good at hiding. This ability has assisted me in being able to put up walls around the most vulnerable parts of me, to pretend that everything in my life is fine and I am perfectly okay. The thing is, I wasn’t okay at all- my life had become completely dedicated to hiding who I really was and somewhere along the way I completely lost sight of who I actually am.

 

The worst part about it was that I wasn’t just hiding from the people around me, I was hiding from God too; I had wrapped myself from head to toe in a blanket of lies and slowly, but surely, I was suffocating and I couldn’t help, but wonder…how could God love me? How could I even be worthy of God’s love if I don’t even like the person I’ve become?

However, recently, I was given the opportunity to take a step forward in not only accepting who I am, but to become the person God made me to be, and “rise and shine” from the never ending sleep I had been in, at Venire Retreat 2016: Arise.

 

Arise! Shine; for your light has come and the glory of the lord rises upon you
Isaiah 60:1

 

Venire is quite possibly one of my favourite places in the world. It has always been there for me when I needed it the most, but on this particular week- retreat week- all I wanted to do was go home and sleep. I had spent 11 long, draining school weeks dragging myself to school and plastering a smile on my face, despite any anxiety or bad moods- basically, I didn’t want to go, I didn’t want to listen to people who would make me think about myself or make me come face to face with God…

I didn’t want God to see how broken I was. But the light that shone from the incredible Venire community was powerful and with each minute that passed, I longed even more to be a part of it. Everyone was so kind and accepting and I was continually reminded of how much God loves me; of how God does not make dirt; and how I am enough.

 

“We were made from dust, but we were not made to be dust,” was a quote that really resonated with me throughout the retreat. I couldn’t stop saying it to myself over and over again and the more I thought about it a warmth continued to spread through my entire body- from my chest outward.

Every bone in my body was almost screaming at me to start fighting for my faith, I felt as though God was calling me to not just live, but to awaken from the sleep I was in, I felt God calling me to arise and for the first time in my life, I wasn’t afraid. I wasn’t afraid to come out of hiding and fully give myself over to God. In praise and worship that night, I didn’t hide from Jesus, I stood before him and shined.

 

You are the salt of the earth”
Matthew 5:13
Stay Salty- Read, Listen, Pray, Serve, love, SHINE

 

Throughout retreat, not once did feel like an outsider, I didn’t feel awkward or weird- I felt a sense of belonging. I felt alive. I was able to have meaningful conversations with people my age and build lasting friendships. I could almost feel my heart multiplying in size and my love for God growing stronger.

Now I feel like I am a completely different person. I’m ready to stop hiding and not just let God’s light shine on me, but through me. I made a decision before coming home that I would never give up fighting for God, because he has never given up on me and I Know that I will continue to rise.

This blog originally appeared on Venire Youth’s website www.venireyouth.com

 

Diahann (2)

Diahann Pasquill is in grade 10 at Benowa State High School. She was recently confirmed and accepted into the Catholic Church. She has been attending Venire for 2 years and has just come back from the Venire annual retreat.

 

As Teresa, Zach and I sat around in our cosy little office on Monday morning, bleary eyed, yawning and mostly ready for the week ahead…

Ok side note:

I was probably the only one bleary eyed and yawning. My wife and I have been experiencing the joys of sleepless nights as our 7 month old son Oscar, plays his favourite game.

In my mind he calls the game “who’s it gunna be”? As far is as can tell the “rules”, and I use that term loosely, are pretty simple. Oscar cries and waits to find out who’s going to “win” by coming to comfort him next? Meanwhile, mummy and daddy are in bed playing rock paper scissors to see who is going to lose by having to go and comfort him next. I think that particular night I lost more times than I won.

… Anyway back to the cosy little office. As we started to discuss what stood out to us from the first chapter of Divine Renovation, the concept of identity or lack thereof, in our church dominated most of our conversation. Here are a few of my own reflections based on this question of identity.

Who am I?

“Who am I?” It is a question we all ask ourselves at one point or another. Asking and answering this question is the key to growth and development.  When we actually seek to live out our identity the whole world becomes a better place.  Or as St Irenaeus puts it “The glory of God is man fully alive

Why does the Church exist?

As a Church we need to ask ourselves these same identity questions. Who are we? What is our purpose as a church? Why do we exist?

If we have never reflected on this question it almost doesn’t even make sense to us. The Church seems so big with so many parts doing so many different things, could we really reduce it down to just one purpose?

Yes!

Fr James points out that Jesus gave us the great commission. His last words to his disciples before His ascension into heaven was “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

This means that all of our activities, all of our ministries, all of our outreach and social justice programs, everything we do as a Church needs to serve this end.  Our purpose and our identity is to make disciples of all nations. To make followers of Christ.

 

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

 

Are we making disciples?

When we look around our parish or our faith community is this purpose obvious? Can we clearly see that the Church is working towards this goal? If we ask ourselves why we go to Mass? Is our answer “so I can make disciples”?  Unfortunately, it is not always obvious that making disciples is what we are about.

A disciple is someone who has a hunger to learn about, to understand and to follow Jesus. Many people believe in Jesus but mere belief seems to be where it ends for some of us.

The end game of making disciples is not so people believe in Jesus. It is to have a yearning for Him, a hunger to know and to love Him more, to seek Him the way we would seek air if we were underwater. Can we really say that we experience that level of hunger in our faith?

Who are we?

The identity of the Church is wrapped up in making disciples. But to make disciples we must first become disciples, acquiring this hunger ourselves and then finding new ways to present the eternal truths of Gospel of Jesus Christ that make sense in people’s lives today.

 

The identity of the Church is wrapped up in making disciples

 

I think about the impact that we as a Church could have on our world if we truly knew who we are and what our purpose is. If we could recapture that sense of identity and allow ourselves to be guided by the Spirit to live out our identity to the fullest, we would see, like Divine Renovation’s author Fr James Mallon has, a renewal in our parishes and in our faith communities.

 

Jeremy Grear

Jeremy is the parish support officer for youth ministry in the Archdiocese of Brisbane. He is married and has an 8 month old son. Jeremy is passionate about promoting the dignity of the family and the human person.

I found my calling when I was backpacking and teaching through China, Cambodia and Thailand.

I was eating breakfast in a small charity restaurant in Siem Reap in Cambodia, when a homeless man approached me. His clothes were torn; he had scars all over his body and he his arms had been amputated.

But what moved me most were his eyes. He was a man in need of so many things, none of which I could give him.I had only carried enough money to get myself breakfast, and I felt helpless.

I knew that day that Jesus had shown me my calling through this man’s eyes; to eradicate poverty and conflict, to uphold human rights and to fight for human dignity.

 

This experience has led me to study a Bachelor’s degree in Peace and Conflict Studies and International Relations.

This area, like many others, often discredits religion and faith and focuses only on facts and reason. Often I think the time I spend studying is selfish, and time away from praying or working for God’s ministry in Ignite Youth. I frequently questioned ‘how do I be Christ’s love, whilst studying a degree that is the complete opposite of my faith?’

 

Today’s modern society often portrays faith as a moral compass for ethics, to satisfy one’s emotional requirements. My degree and my faith seemed like two conflicting forces within my life. Often times I felt that the faith I wanted to live out and the classes I was learning, were the opposite. I was also told that I was not ‘fulfilling my potential’ by working for the Church.

This led me to ask ‘how can I be a Catholic and study international politics?’ I felt discouraged, like I had lost sight of God’s calling and had to give up my faith for my degree.

It wasn’t until I met role models who studied my degree, and now work for the Church helping to alleviate poverty and stand up for human rights, that I realised no matter what field I am in, my calling is to bring Christ’s love to the world. In both working for God’s kingdom and following his calling to study international politics, I am fulfilling God’s call in my life.

My degree has not made me question my faith. Instead of making me see the pessimistic flaws of the world, university has made me appreciate my faith, and the power Christ’s love has in the world.

 

“The place where God calls you is where your deep desire and the world’s deepest hunger meet” (Frederick Buechner).

 

God places us in these areas for a reason. And just like life, we may or may not know the reason; we can only discern and follow God. There is a great hunger in both areas of my life; a great hunger for young people to have a relationship with God and work for youth ministry, and there is also a great hunger for peace and eradication of poverty in the world.

This degree isn’t opposing my faith, but helping me see the world for what is and what it could be.

 

I don’t know where God will lead me – maybe to give my life for the Church and work in bringing young people to Christ, or maybe further down the track, working for peace in the world and to stop injustice. Only God knows. Either way, I will be Christ’s love in whatever I do.

Headshot

 

 

Katelyn Swinsburg works as a youth leader, appeals and administration assistant at Ignite Youth and is also currently studying a Bachelor’s Degree with an extended major in Peace and Conflict Studies and International Relations at the University of Queensland. She loves dancing, choreographing and playing worship music in her local parishes. She is also engaged to Matthew Ross to be married in December this year.

The views expressed in the Catholic Collective blog do not necessarily represent the views of the Youth Evangelisation Office or the Archdiocese of Brisbane

The idea of a book club conjures up an image of 5 older, retired ladies sitting around in a lounge room covered in flowers from the wallpaper to the upholstery with cups of tea and blankets over their laps (very unfair considering the only actual exposure I’ve had to book clubs is watching The Jane Austen Book Club).

Jane Austen Book Club

 

 

 

 

 

However, I don’t know about you, but I am hopeless at finishing books – particularly when they are not novels.

I have a pile of 5 or 6 books sitting on my bedside table accumulating dust – and not in a shabby chic, perfectly imperfect kind of way either.

Exp v reality books large

 

 

 

 

 

So after spending a year recommending books I’ve only half-read to people, I decided it was time I did something about this. Due to my strong dislike of book clubs, I found a loophole that would allow me to avoid book clubs, yet still have some accountability in my reading, through some inspiration from an Andy Stanley leadership podcast  (which I thoroughly recommend, but that is a whole other blog in itself).

At the start of his leadership meetings, he works through a book with his leadership team and this was something the Youth Office could easily do at the start of each of our weekly meetings (after beginning with prayer of course!).

Luckily, I work with two people who are flexible and were willing to give this a shot. The result – we are all actually making our way through our first book together, “Divine Renovation” . It’s a miracle!

And do you know what? I’m loving it. Divine Renovation is by Fr James Mallon and is the new kid on the block in a long line of parish renewal books. I’m loving breaking open a chapter or a section at a time in a super unstructured way.

I’m enjoying being stretched in my knowledge of what is possible in parish life. Even the subtitle, “Bringing your parish from maintenance to mission”, is challenging and inspiring.

We’ve enjoyed our discussions so much around this book that we simply don’t want to keep this stuff to ourselves. We want to share it with the world (and you!).

So over the next little while, we will be doing a series of blogs sharing our reflections as we move through the chapters.

I’m hoping our non-book club experience can offer you something.

We hope that this might give you some encouragement in your journey as leaders in the Church and some little kernels of wisdom to then take back to your parish or faith community, just like it has done for us. So keep an eye out in the weeks to come. Happy reading!
 

 

Contact page Teresa MCGrath

 

 

 

Teresa McGrath is the Youth Project Consultant for the Archdiocese of Brisbane, and heads up the Youth Evangelisation Office.

 

My search for the ‘Perfect’ Youth Group

It is probably best to start off with what I mean by ‘perfect’ in this story.  A ‘perfect’ youth group here means one that is just right for me, and it may be for you too or another group may be the one for you.

Why Search?  

It’s difficult going through life on your own; you really need the support of other Catholics, especially in today’s world where so many people seem to be anti-God.  And it’s so uplifting to talk to people of your own age who happen to have the same beliefs as you!  If people are on the same page as you on important issues then it is easier to become friends with them, have loads of fun and start your journey of becoming a better Catholic.

My search for a “perfect” youth group began after I had graduated from high school…

 

The Beginning

My story starts off in a small community, where I attended a local parish without a youth group throughout my childhood and schooling.  There weren’t any young people my age there. Being the only Catholic in school was difficult enough and not being able to meet other Catholics my own age was kind of heart breaking.

As you can imagine or you have also experienced, life as a teen isn’t easy in these kinds of situations…

 

Conquering Trials and Tribulations

Through prayer, reading the Bible and Catholic articles,  going to mass and adoration, I began to understand that I had to go through these trials, and to feel alone, to feel the pain and suffering as Jesus wanted me to understand His life. Jesus too was rejected by his own people, the Jews, as He had different beliefs, and even those with the same beliefs denied Him.

What I’m trying to tell you is not to get discouraged like I did for years.

Taking the first step is always the hardest.  It was difficult leaving my “comfort zone” having been a rather shy/quite teen girl.  I think that’s why it took me years to leave behind my home sweet home in my search for my “perfect” youth group…

 

Go out into the World!

Once I left the coziness of my room, I discovered that there was an overwhelming amount of youth groups around.  There was bound to be one that was ‘perfect’ for me.  But which one was I to choose?

I attended a number of different youth groups at university and in parishes until I found those that suited my lifestyle at the time and where I was able to attend on a regular basis.

 

Just ‘Perfect’ for me

The first youth group I joined was the Our Lady of Victories Polish Youth Group, which as the name says, includes youth from Polish families.  I then discovered Frassati Australia, which is based at Mary Immaculate, Annerley where I attend a weekly mass on Monday nights at 7pm, then afterwards there is a talk on important Catholic issues.  Late last year, an all ladies Catholic group by the name of ‘Flores Teresianes (Flowers of Therese)’ was formed based at Mary Immaculate, Annerley, which I now attend.  This year I also began to attend the Young Carmelite Group based at the Carmelite Monastery in Ormiston which meets once every two months.

I was only praying for God to help me find one ‘perfect’ youth group and was sent four that suited me just right.

 

Hint, Hint!

Some of these youth groups I discovered by attending the annual Youth and Vocations Expo at the Cathedral of St Stephens. The Youth and Vocations Expo will be held at St Stephen’s Cathedral on Sunday 7 August 2016 from 11am to 3:30pm.

 

 

Joanna headshot

 

 

 

 

Joanna Czajkowska is a Brisbane born Polish girl and folkloric dancer who loves travelling, running and reading Saint Faustyna’s Dzienniczek “Diary” in Polish.

The views expressed in the Catholic Collective blog do not necessarily represent the views of the Youth Evangelisation Office or the Archdiocese of Brisbane