Youth ministry at St Patrick’s Parish, Guildford, is blooming, thanks to the launch of a new senior youth group.
The parish-based youth group celebrated its first meeting on Sunday 22 September after months of planning, discerning and development.
“Our parish priest, Fr Peter [Blayney] has been supporting all of us from the very start and actually gave the big push for the youth group,” youth leader Nicole Yu told Catholic Outlook.
“There hasn’t been a youth group where youth of high school age were allowed to participate in, so this really inspired us to create a new one.”
“The Parish Pastoral Council (PPC) saw it as a need flowing from the Faith in Our Future statement from some years ago. It is really the PPC which has been the driver over the past year,” parish priest Fr Peter Blayney added.
During their first meeting, the young people in attendance got to know each other through icebreaker games, and were led through a reflection on prayer by Qwayne Guevara, Local Engagement Leader, Catholic Youth Parramatta.
Qwayne has helped the youth group through the initial stages, and has been working with the parish since Easter.
During Holy Week, the parish opened its church to young people for the beginning of a new route for Catholic Youth Parramatta’s Good Friday Night Walk, which would take them through Granville, East Granville, Merrylands and Harris Park before reaching St Patrick’s Cathedral, Parramatta, early on Holy Saturday.
“I encouraged Fr Peter to invite a few young people in his parish who he thought would be able to start a group, and a few weeks later, I entered the parish meeting room with 16 young people keen to check out the next steps,” Qwayne told Catholic Outlook.
“At this meeting, I presented on the need for youth ministry, how it fits in the wider diocesan family and the need for leaders – after which, three leaders raised their hands to spearhead the launch and future of the senior youth group,” she said.
Nicole said that she hopes the activities will be spiritual, with some elements of fun. “We hope to run practical activities where we really delve into spirituality through adoration and prayer together, as well as fun activities on the side to help bring our youth community together.”
Fr Peter said that he hopes young people get the chance to deepen their relationship with Christ in the youth group.
“I’d like to think they find friendship and mutual support for one another, which would reflect a sense of parish community.
“They should gain more information about the content of their faith but also deepen their personal relationship with Jesus as Lord and Saviour.
“They should gain a sense of belonging to the Church – in a parish; diocesan and universal context.
“And it is important that they have fun – enjoy each other’s company, socialise, and relax in the way they want to,” Fr Peter explained.
Qwayne added, “I hope that this youth group becomes a place where these young people feel welcomed and safe to strive for holiness and to be who God called them to be.
“I pray that they are encouraged by their encounters of authentic witness and love through others and through the beauty of the faith.”
And what do they hope the future of the youth group will look like?
“My own hopes for the youth group include a tight-knit family who will be praying together and making a difference in the future,” Nicole explained.
“I’d like them to be good and confident leaders and voices for change. They face a lot of challenges from their peers and society in general. I’d love them to be equipped and ready for all of life’s challenges and opportunities to do so with confidence and a strong sense of knowing who they are. A life in faith can support all these aspirations,” Fr Peter said.
Qwayne said, “It’s important that young people feel supported in their initiatives, that they recognise that they are part of a bigger mission, and that they receive solid formation in the faith. This is an on-going journey.
“I acknowledge that it can be scary choosing to say ‘yes’ to something like youth ministry. However, St John Paul II said it constantly to young people and it still remains so true – ‘Be not afraid’.
“We fully know what role we play in the great plan of God for humanity, but we can trust with little acts of faith, like the starting of a youth group, God will do amazing things.”