National Coordinator of the NZCBC Office for Young People, Sr Helen O’Sullivan RNDM, recently attended the inaugural Australian Catholic Youth Ministry Convention in Melbourne. She was joined by Diocesan Youth Directors Kathleen Field (Palmerston North) and Chris Lysaght (Christchurch); Hannah Hewitt (Logos) and Chris Duthie-Jung (NZCBC Researcher).
The convention attracted around 400 participants involved with youth ministry in schools, parishes, communities, movements, religious institutions and dioceses from across Australia. Seven Australian bishops were present for the convention, which had as its theme, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”(Mk 10:17)
Sr O’Sullivan said the convention, “offered all people involved in youth ministry the opportunity to be supported, encouraged and re energised in their ministry with young people and in their goal of empowering young people to know and love Jesus personally”.
Keynote speaker Dr Bob McCarty, Executive Director of the National Federation of Catholic Youth Ministry (NFCYM) of the United States, offered many challenges and expressed his concern that many communities are failing to engage and educate youth.
“Engagement is crucial,” he said, “Belonging is more important than involvement. Belief does not lead to belonging, belonging leads to belief.” Bob went on to say that he believes the church is experiencing “a faith community issue, not a youth issue”.
Prior to the convention the New Zealand participants met with Bob and his wife Maggie, a previous Executive Director of NFYCM. Together they teased out the landscape of the Catholic Church and the maps used in youth ministry in New Zealand and around the world. Bob said, “We the Church need to be humble enough to change the maps to truly reflect the new landscape that exists today”.
The next New Zealand National Conference on Catholic Youth Ministry (NCCYM) will be held in Palmerston North from 13-16 November, 2011. It will aim to provide opportunities to look in more depth at the faith community issues challenging New Zealand parishes, schools and tertiary institutions as they seek to engage young people.