The Australian Catholic Youth Festival (ACYF) is a national gathering of Catholic young people established by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC). It exists to provide young people with opportunities to deepen their relationship with Jesus, be empowered to be disciples in the world today and encounter and celebrate the vitality of the Church in Australia
The Australian Catholic Youth Festival exists to:
- Provide a high quality formative and experiential opportunity for young Catholics to encounter Jesus Christ, in the context of the Catholic Church in Australia;
- Listen to and discuss the issues and challenges in the lives of young Catholics in Australia;
- Evangelise young people and empower them to be evangelists;
- Provide young people with local examples and connections of vocations, social action, liturgy and prayer, catholic music and catechesis.
The fourth Australian Catholic Youth Festival (ACYF) was hosted by the Archdiocese of Perth and took place at the Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre from December 8 – 10, 2019.
Reports can be read below:
My pen has hovered for a long time as I contemplate what to share with you all about ACYF. Not because I have little to report but rather because I have so much to say and I do not know where or how to begin. Nothing can quite capture the entirety of my journey in Perth. I also desire to give you the sense of joy, hope and anticipation for what God is (not going to do, but already doing) in young people, in our country and in each and every one of your lives too.
So here is my attempt to summarise…
On December 8, around 5,500 young people piled into the Perth Convention Centre and if they felt anything like I did, there was a mixture of excitement and curiosity for what was to come in the next few days.
At ACYF in Sydney 2017, I saw the Catholic community in a new light. I saw thousands of young people who were passionate or searching for God. I did not feel alone anymore and I felt excited about my faith and learning more. This time, I think I presumed that my experience would not be as life-changing and it wasn’t the same, but I could see people who were having the same realisations that I had had two years before and this was so beautiful. I knew what world was opening up for them. This is not to say that I didn’t have any new realisations. This time God showed me guidance for the next step in my journey and peace and courage to take that step.
The theme for the festival was ‘Listen to what the Spirit is saying’. Here are a few of the things I heard…
- Laughter and excitement as friendships old and new blossomed. To me, this sound was like the uniting of an extended family. It became apparent to me that I belonged to a family much bigger than I had realised.
- Wisdom from a range of speakers whose personal stories of struggle and finding God gave hope for our own journeys. The diversity of those presenting showed God’s preciseness in designing each of us with specific gifts which, once discovered, could be used for His glory.
- Deep conversations. ACYF was a space where people felt safe. I heard questions asked that seemed to come from the depths of people’s hearts. Thought about, worried about perhaps, but never verbalised. Here people were encouraged to ask the challenging questions.
- Notable silences, in a stadium full of people. Including during Adoration where the presence of Our Lord was truly felt – a first for many. This was particularly moving, when compared to the energetic dancing, singing and cheering that occurred only moments prior.
- This one might sound weird but I heard movement. There is no doubt that the Spirit moved at ACYF. He made His presence known to many and I believe that He revealed how much more there is to life once we truly listen and allow ourselves to be led by Him.
ACYF was, for me, eye-opening, stirring, joy-filling, action-inspiring and reflective. I asked many people what their highlights were and was so surprised by the responses I got. I guess I predicted answers related to fun (because there was lots of it!) such as ‘the rapping priest’ or ‘the slow motion crowd wave’ and ‘the giant, floating balloons in the night session’. What stood out for most though was their very unique and personal encounter with God. Therefore, the answers I received were mostly linked to the sacraments. For example, ‘I felt drawn to go to confession and have never felt the freedom that resulted’. ‘During silent adoration, I asked God to give me a sign that I was welcome in His Kingdom. In the next moment, a Bishop patted me on the shoulder as he walked past’.
ACYF taught me that God comes and meets you wherever you are. Where you need Him, He will be there. How He speaks and what He says will be exactly what you need to hear. So Listen. Respond knowing the good that will come from your ‘yes’.
St Joseph’s College Mildura and Sacred Heart Catholic Parish
We were very lucky to be able to head to Perth for ACYF with such a great group of young people. It was a terrific experience; uplifting music, challenging speakers, a lively atmosphere among all the enthusiastic pilgrims from across Australia and some welcome opportunities for heart-felt prayer. We were very impressed with how our young people entered into the festival. Each had their own hopes and expectations in coming. We pray that they were all encouraged and challenged according to their own needs, and that the Holy Spirit breathed deeply into their hearts.
The Youth Festival began for our group on Sunday, December 8 with Bishop Paul celebrating Mass with our young people, Mrs Marg Blythman and Mrs Carmen Cox at St Brigid’s College Chapel in Lesmurdie and continued for the next three days. The beautiful voices of Maya and Soane being accompanied by Jack and Matthew on the guitar allowed our faith journey to begin with the sound of Angels. The Mildura group met up with fellow pilgrims from Ballarat on the final day to reflect on the challenges and opportunities of the festival and their hopes for the future. Bishop Paul and Fr James led the reflection and Maya assisted us in a rendition of Send Us Out. Following the reflection as a group we began our pilgrimage walk to praise our Lord in the festival’s concluding Mass with over five thousand pilgrims.
The Youth Festival adopted the scriptural focus of the 2020 Plenary Council by with its theme: ‘Listen to what the Spirit is saying’ (Rev 2:7). We hope and pray that our young group take up the opportunity to listen to what the Spirit is saying to them and act accordingly.
Many thanks to all our benefactors who helped us attend, the Mildura KSC branch, the Sisters of Mercy, St Joseph's College Mildura and indeed the whole Sacred Heart Parish. At a Diocesan level we must also pay special thanks to the Catholic Education Office Ballarat for their generous sponsorship and to Bishop Paul for his encouragement.
Fr James Kerr and Miss Paula Cox
The Australian Catholic Youth Festival (ACYF) is a gathering of Catholic young people, established in 2015 by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference. In December 2019, representatives from our Ballarat Diocese attended the festival, with a total of 5,500 other young people from across the country.
The purpose of ACYF is to strengthen and deepen the faith of people aged 15 to 30 years old. The festival consisted of engaging talks, educational workshops, musical performance, as well as the opportunity for prayer and penance. ACYF aims to evangelise the young church of Australia, teaching and encouraging them to be evangelists themselves.
Young adults are provided with examples and connections of vocations, and broader exposure to potential missionaries across the world. The theme for this years’ festival – ‘Listen to what the Spirit is saying’ instilled a fiery energy through all those in attendance, building courage and allowing the love of faith to grow organically.
A pilgrimage along the Swan River, from the Convention Centre to Trinity College in East Perth, arrived at the location for an open-air Mass to end the three-day festival. Perth Archbishop Timothy Costelloe celebrated the final Mass and spoke a motivating homily, calling the “young church of Australia” to be brave and open their lives to Jesus. Many young people recalled the highlight of their festival experience was the opportunity for adoration. All the pilgrims gathered together on the second night to bring themselves before the blessed sacrament in astounding silence.
The Australian Catholic Youth Festival 2019 was a memorable and life changing endeavor, delving deep into the exploration of faith in young lives and receiving the chance to encounter God like never before.