Celebrating Youth Alive in the Church
By Ellen Hales
“Christ is alive! He is our hope, and in a wonderful way he brings youth to our world, and everything he touches becomes young, new, full of life.” These are the very first words Pope Francis writes to all young people and the wider Church in his most recent exhortation Christus Vivit. SHINE embodies this message and the 700 participants who gathered last week at St John Paul College, Coffs Harbour, for the annual Gathering left renewed and full of life.
Since 2013, the Proclaim Lismore Catholic Culture Change Program has aimed to enable students to achieve the fullness of life. This mission is inspired by the Good Shepherd’s words in the Gospel of John; Jesus accompanies us, promising to be the gatekeeper to a full life. Each year the SHINE program evolves and improves to better accompany the young participants. This year the central theme for keynotes, workshops, dramas, activities, music, small groups and prayer was ‘You Know My Name’. “I have called you by name. You are mine,” is how Isaiah articulates this truth. Who doesn’t want to be called by name; known? The “knowing” and the “naming” seem to hit that inner part of ourselves and as disoriented, forgotten or ashamed as we feel, we are precious in God’s eyes and in the words of Bishop Greg, “we must learn to love ourselves.”
The capacity and giftedness of the team was highlighted this year, with the Proclaim Lismore Wildfire band leading worship in every session. A powerful moment at SHINE was during the morning rally when a choir of students joined the band on stage to sing Psalm 23. The young people had only learnt the song in a workshop the day before, but the harmonies kindled the hearts of everyone in the hall. The Youth Ministry Officers took the lead during most of the sessions with the help of 100 senior student leaders. A refreshing variety of interactive workshops are offered each year, and 2019 additions like ‘Faith in Sport’ and ‘Looking out for your friends: Mental Health’ were very popular.
Bishop Greg’s presence at SHINE is always a highlight and we are extremely grateful for his insight and support. The accompanying teachers, Sr Dedith Moralde and members of the clergy including keynote speaker Fr Paul Gooley, offered a special layer of spirituality and guidance. The SHINE Gathering could not run without them.
The young church is alive and willing, and the SHINE Gathering will continue to celebrate the youthful Spirit in the Catholic Church for years to come.