Listen to what the Spirit is saying: Reflections on the Australian Catholic Youth Festival 2019

The annual festival seeks to provide a high-quality formative and experiential opportunity for young Catholics to encounter Jesus Christ.

The 2019 Australian Catholic Youth Festival (ACYF) brought together the energy, passion and faith of thousands of young Australians. 

Held from 8 to 10 December 2019 in Perth, the festival was a chance for young Catholics to come together in community. 

The annual festival seeks to offer a high-quality formative and experiential opportunity for young Catholics to encounter Jesus Christ, while also providing a space to discuss the issues and challenges in the lives of young Catholics in Australia.

Over the three days, participants encountered ideas on vocations, social action, liturgy and prayer, Catholic music and catechesis.

Julian Butler SJ (third from right) with friends from Jesuit Companion School; St Ignatius College Geelong.

This year, Julian Butler SJ and Fr Robin Koning SJ were in attendance at the Jesuit stall. The newly developed gaming app ‘Which Jesuit Saint are you?’ proved to be extremely popular, as contestants got a chance to find out more about themselves, the Jesuit saints and Ignatian spirituality. 

Nicole, an employee of the Australian Jesuit Province Office, took part as a leader at this year’s festival. She notes that a major theme was ‘listening to what the Spirit is saying’.

‘We were guided to listen through song, storytelling, praise, worship and experiencing the solidarity of our love and faith in God and our church with over 6000 youth and their leaders over an incredible three days’, she says.

‘Moments of worship and silence meant the Spirit was free to move in the hearts of youth who were asked to bravely say “yes” to the call of to be courageous, open and innovative in reflecting their desires for a church they want to be a part of in the future.’

For Alicia, a teacher from Jesuit Companion School St Ignatius College Geelong who led a group of 12 students to Perth, the four plenary sessions were a highlight. They ‘showcased Catholicism in all its expressions, from rapping with Joe Melendez to praying with Taizé chants, from jumping for Jesus to kneeling before the blessed sacrament’, she says.

Students and staff from St Ignatius College Geelong with Fr Timothy Costelloe, Archbishop of Perth.

Students and staff from St Ignatius College Geelong with Most Rev. Fr Timothy Costelloe, Archbishop of Perth.

‘The workshops and lectures provided young people with opportunities to seek out topics and experiences that interested them. Each encounter enabled young people to actively listen to where the Spirit was calling them.

‘For those familiar with Ignatian Spirituality this theme may recall the practices of St Ignatius of Loyola in listening to the movements of the heart when discerning where God or the Spirit is leading us.

‘Indeed, our final day in Perth was a day of reflection that opened with contemplating the icon of St Ignatius painted by Br Robert Lentz OFM. This icon depicts St Ignatius with one finger raised to his lips and his other hand gesturing to his heart and invites us to listen attentively to the motions of our soul to discern where the Holy Spirit is leading us.’

The ACYF provides hope not only for the youth involved but for the church and greater world. Having youth engaged with faith and spirituality in the community gives cause for optimism with regard to the leaders of the future.