The significant highlight for me during the ACYF17 was the opening plenary. As part of the Welcome to Country, an Aboriginal Elder woman shared her message filled with hope. “We come together as one People, let’s learn to love one big family”. “Long time ago when the world was one, long time ago when the earth was soft, see all these mob are here now? You are all just coming home, one day that will be found!” This was such a powerful message of hope for me, for the young people that were present during ACYF, and for the Church. We need to come home to the reality that God continuously invites us to be in relationship with Him. We are not alone, we belong to one another.
To witness the vibrant energy manifested in the faces of young people who participated in ACYF was the most hopeful and assuring truth that will always remind me of the Festival experience. I think young people took the important message of ‘coming home’ and being ‘at home’. It is like coming home to a family that is not perfect but with imperfections, a family that will fight to make the family whole as one. Young people experienced being listened to and being welcomed. There were many profound experiences during ACYF for me, particularly during the last day. Young people were so open to having a one-on-one discussion with the priests, bishops and religious. There were two very significant conversations I had with young people. One participant shared: “At the Qudos Bank Arena during plenaries, I looked around and everyone in the room was there for one reason, hunger and thirst to encounter God’. The second said: ‘It was amazing to be connected to my faith, Sister. I can’t explain it but something heavy was lifted or removed from my heart, particularly during the Sacrament of Reconciliation’.
I would like to continue the spirit of ACYF in my community by making a conscious remembering, talking to Sisters about it, recalling the significant experiences I had and in that way, I can encourage Sisters to join me in talking about what can we do to enhance our desire to work with young people. They might have some idea as well. As a Province, praying together for young people is very important. In addition, as I attend my local parish church (Marayong), I know there are many young people at our parish, most of them known to me, who participated in ACYF. There is an opportunity for me to meet them through the celebration of the Mass when they are rostered to do the singing on that weekend. After the Mass they have fellowship, which is a great way to continue the conversation about ACYF and the youth of the Church today.
Sr. Rita Marie Apura