Home' Aurora : Aurora October 2013 Contents The English poet WH Auden wrote that
when grace enters, there is no choice
but to dance. Trish Bogan introduces
a young woman, "an ardent dancer,
bubbly, dedicated to her faith, committed
to working with young people and wise
beyond her years". Melissa Fenech has
taken on a role that allows her to invite
others to join the dance.
Melissa Fenech was born in Canberra,
moved to New Zealand, then settled at
Cherrybrook in Sydney, where the family
grew up. She and her two brothers
were baptised, but her family "weren't
In Year 3, Melissa was introduced to
State Religious Education (SRE) Scripture
class. She was handed a note regarding
enrolment in the Sacramental program.
Her parents discussed the issue and
decided the children should receive their
Sacraments, and they have been Sunday
'regulars' since. Melissa laughs, "The
whole family was then up to scratch!"
Melissa considers this providential, "It
is quite phenomenal for me to reflect
on because just one form my Scripture
Teacher handed out started my faith
journey". At high school, she was the only
Catholic to become involved in a Christian
lunch group, most were from the Hillsong
Church. She attended two of their student
camps and discovered Christian fellowship
and experienced her first "God moment".
Melissa was an ardent dancer so was
disappointed when unable to study
the subject in senior high. After family
discussion, she enrolled in the closest
Catholic school to complete her HSC,
with dancing included. She was excited
to be attending a Catholic high school
but found it tough to be one of three new
students in her year.
World Youth Day (WYD) was held in
Sydney and Melissa was in first year at
Sydney University. Her parish arranged
a retreat to organise a group. She went
along and was surrounded by others who
had long been part of the parish youth
scene. They attended WYD together and
it became an amazing encounter.
Though she was a late starter, Melissa
was urged to train as a youth leader. She
began slowly but discovered it was the
'relational ministry' where she found most
enjoyment. "That was my calling, I really
loved just hanging out with these kids and
getting to know them."
In early 2009, Melissa attended a week's
summer school for Catholic youth in
Bathurst organised by the Disciples of
Jesus Community and the Missionaries
of God's Love (MGL). During this retreat
Melissa underwent an epiphany, "I'm
going to identify as Catholic; God is real;
this all makes sense; this is my home."
Melissa explains her parents "freaked out"
at the change in their daughter. "They
thought these people had brainwashed
me. From that experience I learnt a lot
about sharing my faith."
The following year, Melissa repeated the
retreat and became intrigued by Sr Kate
Atkins MGL. "Her testimony touched me in
a new place." Later she seriously began to
discern to what vocation God was calling
her following completion of her degree.
Melissa realised she was becoming
more comfortable accepting a religious
life. She attended a 'Come and See'
weekend in Canberra with the MGLs
and admitted, "I think God is calling me."
She was shocked by her own response!
Melissa completed the enrolment forms
then finished her degree.
With a strong desire to be present for the
canonisation in Rome of Mary MacKillop
in October 2011, Melissa used her savings
to attend. "The impact of that pilgrimage
will keep bearing fruit for the rest of my
life." Later she entered and completed six
months at the MGL convent in Canberra.
But Melissa felt "it was clear it was not the
right thing for me."
Melissa's experience in the convent
was productive; part of the work of the
MGL charism is with young people.
Eighteen months later Melissa saw an
advertisement which changed her life.
She is now Youth Ministry Co-ordinator
for the Chisholm Region and its ACTiv8
Team. She is invigorating local young
people in the Maitland area since her
arrival in March. It hasn't taken Melissa
long to settle in and thoroughly enjoy her
multitude of daily tasks.
She admits that the clergy sexual abuse
cases are, "One of the biggest challenges
for someone involved in youth ministry. For
the young people we minister to, we need
to show that church is different from the
image we have been given." She has great
hope that young people will continue in the
church and have their own influence in re-
building church. "It's important for today's
youth to be feel connected to the church."
Melissa firmly believes that through prayer
she will learn how God wants her to reach
out, how to evangelise appropriately. "We
just have to trust God and listen!"
BY TRISH BOGAN
riverside at Maitland.
The "Grant kids" from St Patrick's Lochinvar have "mini trotting" as
an extra-curricular activity. (l-r) Jackson, Thomas, Mathew, Ben
and Ava in silks.
Students enjoyed children's author David Legge's
visit to St Catherine's College Singleton.
The Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle hosted the national
conference of diocesan archivists, who are pictured with
Bishop Bill and Vice Chancellor Teresa Brierley.
Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle www.mn.catholic.org.au
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