Home' Aurora : Aurora May 2013 Contents If you're reading this and under the age of
35, you're probably in the minority within the
church. Let's face it; all young people have
noticed it. You'll walk into Mass, take a seat,
look around and think, "Where is everyone?"
Oh, there are people there but that's not
the problem. Where are the young people?
Now, for those who are older than 35, now
is not the time to be offended. I'm not taking
a pot shot, there's nothing wrong with being
older. We all get old.
However, there is something wrong with the
distinct lack of young people in our church.
What drives them away and where do they
go? More crucially, how do we encourage
our youth to form community when it's hard
to work out if a community exists for them,
for their needs?
That's why the Diocese of Maitland-
Newcastle has formed the Diocesan
Council for Ministry with Young People
(DCMYP). I'd much prefer it was just called
"Diocesan Youth Council." It's punchier
and doesn't require a google search to
remember the name. But, I digress. The
DCMYP has kicked off to find out what
youth events are going on; hopefully to
connect the dots and bring people aged 16-
35 together in community.
Progress is being made. We have a retreat
next month called "Be, Grow, Show" which
we hope will help connect the youth of the
diocese and enable young people to grow
in their faith journey. A series of speakers
will help us learn how to be people of
faith, how to grow in our faith and share it
with those around us. There will be plenty
of relaxation and activities so that new
friendships can blossom.
Now back to my earlier question, what
drives some young people away from
the church and where do they go? One
easy answer is -- they just stop going. But
increasingly, many young Catholics are
checking out Protestant churches because
they do several things well. At the top of the
list is building community.
They're good at welcoming. You can't walk
through the door of a Protestant church
without receiving the sort of welcome you'd
get from an old friend. And that's just the
start. There will be the after-service supper,
the invite to the barbecue later that week
and a friendly, "Do you want to catch up for
coffee some time? " Soon enough you'll be
signed up to a weekly bible study, involved
in the music team and have an instant
group of friends. It's a valuable model from
which the church, and indeed our Youth
Council, can learn.
Before you accuse me of being some sort
of turncoat, let me qualify. I was raised in
a Catholic home, received the childhood
sacraments and joined what seems to be
the now defunct Antioch. And I've dabbled.
I've spent time in the Anglican, Baptist,
Lutheran and Pentecostal churches while
continuing to go to Mass and be involved in
Catholic youth ministry.
The experience I've had in all Christian
churches has helped my faith grow and
widened my perspective. These days I'm
amused when a fundamentalist Catholic
questions whether I'm really a Catholic, or a
black and white Protestant warns me about
the "dangers" of being caught up in Catholic
rituals. When we get into these negative "My
Christianity is better than yours" arguments,
haven't we missed the point?
Did Jesus not live in order to show all of us
how best to live, and does God not love us
Someone who can relate to these varied
Christian experiences is 31-year-old Brooke
Robinson. Brooke is part of a growing
group of young local Catholics who are
passionate about building community.
Armidale-educated Brooke joined Catholic
youth group Antioch at 15 and described
the experience as a pivotal moment in her
"I remember one of the speakers talking
about Jesus as a best friend," Brooke
recalls. "And then I thought, I haven't had
that experience before. I wanted that. So,
that's when I decided to be Jesus' best
Brooke then joined outreach mission
organisation Youth With a Mission (YWAM)
at 19. The Mayfield-based group does
overseas mission work, but also connects
with the local community anywhere it feels
there's a need.
The choice to try YWAM was as the result of
some soul-searching prayer.
"I remember praying one night because
I was doing a teaching degree at the
University of Newcastle," Brooke says. "I
said God, I'm OK doing this degree but if
you want me to do something else, just let
me know what it is. And the next day my
friend invited me to WYAM and gave me
an application for a school starting in five
weeks. I knew that was the answer to my
After completing a course which involved
three months of lectures on missionary
work and two months training overseas,
Brooke dedicated her twenties to mission
and connecting with people. YWAM is an
evangelical organisation and was different
from her Catholic roots. Like me, Brooke
continued to go to Mass despite being
involved with another church tradition.
"I've just always kept going to Mass,"
Brooke says. "I've always had my Catholic
community...I think the most important
thing is our love for Jesus. We all live our
Christian faith differently and I don't think it
matters too much how we do that."
Brooke finds it beneficial to share her faith
with other Catholics and so welcomes what
the Council is trying to achieve.
"Community anywhere is very important
and I love having friends with similar beliefs,"
she says. "I think it's really important to be
able to support each other and spend time
She admits, however, that in this growing
phase there is room for improvement in the
"I think we need groups of different ages
getting together," she says. "I'd like
Theology on Tap to still be going. We need
times when people can connect with each
other in social events but also in spiritual
Brooke shared her hopes for next month's
"Be, Grow, Show" retreat.
"I'm looking forward to being part of a great
community and being able to hear people's
faith journeys," Brooke says. "I'm also
looking forward to hearing the speakers."
There's no doubt that it's an exciting time
for youth ministry in our diocese. While
you may have looked around the pews
in the past and seen just a handful of
young people, the efforts of the Council to
organise retreats like "Be, Grow, Show" will
help connect the youth in our communities.
The retreat gives us the opportunity to
welcome people who may not have been
part of a worshipping community for
some time. We may also gain some fresh
perspectives from other Christians on how
we can be more welcoming and how to
show Jesus' love to one another.
We'd love you to be there.
For details please see page 21.
(l-r back) Abby Howard, Kate Lloyd, Jacinta
Ballard and (front) Jake Ballard with
Andy Janssen who served in the Vietnam
campaign in 1969/70.
BY JOHN BANNON
BY SIOBHAN MCALARY
Four years ago, before ANZAC Day, teacher
Monique Lloyd began baking biscuits for
the crowds of people who assembled at
Muswellbrook Cenotaph for the annual
ANZAC Day march.
Now in its fifth year, Monique's ceremonial
baking is aided and enjoyed by Mary Ballard
and Trish Howard and their eight children.
She explained, "After attending an ANZAC
march with our children, we wanted to do
something to show the returned servicemen
and women that we care and value the
contribution they made to our livelihood.
"I remember Fr George Nugent one day at
Mass years ago spoke about using our gifts
and talents wisely and I thought 'what can
The mother of two mused and realised her
talent for cooking was the perfect gift.
As a teacher at St James' Primary she was
able to gather the group and cook stacks of
"soldiers' biscuits -- too many to count!
"We bake the biscuits at our homes and on
the day before ANZAC Day we get together
at one home to finish baking.
"As we make the biscuits we discuss with our
children why we are doing it," Monique said.
The mothers then put their children -- Eve,
Jake, Abby, Anna, Clare, Jacinta, Lachlan
and Kate -- in charge of wrapping (and trying
not to eat!) the scrumptious golden biscuits.
The following morning after the march,
their children scatter into the crowd with
instructions and encouragement to give their
biscuits to "the people wearing medals!"
"We also felt it was important to get our
children involved and show that the ANZAC
spirit lives on today in them," Monique
Monique, Mary and Trish are content to
continue this tradition that has given them
a stash of amusing anecdotes and a
satisfaction that stems from being able to
express, in their own way, understanding,
gratitude and respect for the great personal
sacrifice of strangers past and present.
For the mothers, the best part of the
teamwork, talent and tradition is, "The joy
you see on people's faces".
Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle www.mn.catholic.org.au
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