World Youth Day celebrations grip Kyneton
Media and Communications Office, Images provided by Jazz Chalhoui
As the festivities of World Youth Day in Panama reach the midway point, thousands of young Catholics throughout the world have been inspired and invigorated by the energy reverberating from Panama and across the globe, including in Kyneton, where some of Melbourne’s most faithful are gathering.
Each year, a flock of teenagers and young adults convene for the Summer School of Evangelisation, relishing an opportunity to embrace formation and develop closer ties to their peers.
This year, the summer school has welcomed 150 participants to coincide with World Youth Day celebrations and in a show of solidarity and unity, has been designed to follow a number of World Youth Day features including Catechesis with bishops, a Stations of the Cross, an expo and a final Mass.
Led by Bishop Mark Edwards, The Summer School of Evangelisation’s video message to Melbourne’s pilgrims in Panama. The annual Summer School series is managed in part by Tim Kirk, a leader with the Disciples of Jesus, a Catholic lay community. He says the environment provided by the week-long camp offers Melbourne’s youth a chance to connect with their faith and during the World Youth Day celebrations, feel connected to Panama.
‘In a time where there is some concern about the lack of young people and their engagement in the Church, here at the Summer School there is a renewed sense of hope,’ says Tim.
‘People are here because they’re searching for God, searching for meaning in their life. We’re so excited to be able to put in front of them a vision for life as young Catholics.’
For many of the school’s attendees, including Joe Melham, the opportunity to be among likeminded and youthful people has been a transformative experience.
‘Being around other Catholics who are genuinely loving has been a rejuvenating experience, I feel renewed here,’ says Joe, ‘meeting other young people living out their baptism has been eye-opening for me.’
‘This week is teaching me to invest in relationships. I’m learning how important it is to develop meaningful relationships and the effect that they can have on all of us,’ he adds.
Walking alongside the 150 young people in attendance, Bishop Mark Edwards (Episcopal Vicar for Tertiary Education and Youth) remarks that embracing the week-long celebrations is crucial in strengthening how young people interact with faith and the Church.
‘The objective has been to put young people in a situation where Jesus Christ can encounter them. That’s a goal of World Youth Day so we have that in common but we’re doing it in our way,’ says Bishop Edwards.
‘Events like this school and World Youth Day are such a high point, a chance to celebrate and learn. When you have a high point or an event, people are attracted to that. Gathering together and putting time aside to celebrate is exciting and offers a wonderful chance to experience something unique and learn.’
‘It’s crucial we take the energy from this week into our parishes and daily lives,’ he adds.
For three friends attending their first Summer School, Stephanie Mazzarella, Sara Alessio and Louis Selvadurai say the camp serves as a springboard to bring a positive influence to their parishes and inspire formation.
‘We’re not here for a holiday, we’re here asking great questions and engaging in the week and that’s really nice. There’s so many deep discussions as well as moments of personal reflection,’ says Sara, ‘We’re a family, a team and a part of something.’
‘Even though we’re not in Panama, we feel very close to the events there. We pray for Melbourne’s pilgrims and they’re praying for us. It’s obviously smaller but in a way, that’s nice too because we can focus on each other more,’ declares Louisa.
‘It gives me a lot of hope for the future of the church,’ Stephanie explains, ‘seeing so many young people so transfixed, in a contemplative state of mind is fantastic.’