At the Aotearoa Catholic Youth Festival held on Dec 2nd/3rd the Passionist Charism was well represented. Fr Erick and Br Luke from Australia were joined by Kiwis Pravin, Catharina, Awatea, Sam and Penelope to promoting all things Passionist: Vocations, Passionist Family Groups, Passionist Youth and Young Adult retreats, Passionist Sisters, and Passionist Companions. The theme was Face to Face. To actively engage those who visited the stand, the Passionist symbol was shared drawn with henna on the each persons arm.
Br Luke Bulley CP reports on his experience:
Erick and myself started off with the Aotearoa Catholic Youth Festival, which was held in Auckland and was the first of its kind in New Zealand. It was a very moving experience and I think, for me, the best part was how musical it was. It seemed as though everyone who attended knew how to sing/dance and it really enriched the entire experience. We ran a small expo stand (see below) with some of the other young Passionists (mainly from Palmerstone North) with the aim of promoting all kinds of Passionist life (youth/family groups/companions/professed etc.).
We were very grateful to stay with John & Rosie Crawford, who many will know to be extremely welcoming and kind hosts. They made sure we felt very much at home as well as making sure we had everything we needed whilst there.
I think it went really well, we were able to talk with a lot of young people about their experience of the Church in NZ, and were able to get our Passionist name out there a bit more.
One thing that really struck me throughout the festival was the relaxed and down to earth nature of their bishops. At one stage I found myself talking to (who I thought) was just a priest of the diocese, wearing a collar. I introduced myself as ‘Luke,’ and he in turn introduced himself as ‘John,’ and after a bit of conversation I realised it was Cardinal John Dew! Such a humble and kind man. Erick and I were also lucky to have a conversation with Bishop Pat Dunn (see below), who was also very kind and warm towards us.
We were also glad to have a spare afternoon where we went and visited John McGeachie when we found out that he was only just down the road from where we were staying. It was great to have a chat with him and hear many of the stories of the past, and his many experiences around the congregation.
After this, Erick and I both headed over to Sydney where the Australian Catholic Youth Festival was being held. Going from the festival in NZ, which only had just under 1,000 people attending, to the Australian one, which had just under 20,000 people attending, was unreal! Over the past few months, myself, a Carmelite (Matthew) and a Blessed Sacrament guy (Ben) had been organising a stall for the festival titled “#3charisms,” in which we intended to show that there is a unity in religious life, and that there is still life and energy in our way of living. We decided that rather than to go there with the intention of plugging vocations, we would instead go there with the intention of changing people’s ideas of what religious life is. The main attraction of our stall was the paper crane folding (we succeeded in folding 500 paper cranes over the 3 days). We were able to have many conversations with many different people and I think we really did succeed in changing perspectives.
There was one experience in particular that really struck me. There was a young school girl who had come along with her school group (as it was mandatory for many of the Catholic schools) and she wasn’t a practising Catholic. It looked as though she was a little overwhelmed by the whole experience. She was absolutely shocked that these 4/5 guys in habits were teasing each other and laughing like anyone else, and she ended up staying in our stall for around an hour and a half just chatting and laughing with us all. For me, that was a really powerful experience: to be able to change the attitudes of young people who have no idea who or what we are/do. Overall, we felt that the stall was a big success!
Our stall saw a constant stream of people coming along to fold paper cranes and was often full like this with people sitting down for a chat/fold etc.
We also had a group of Passionist youth from around Australia (Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide) who attended. They were all such a great group of people and I think we all thoroughly enjoyed each other’s company.
We really made ourselves known throughout the festival with our beach balls (Jo McDade’s brain child!!) During each and every plenary session (where everyone gathered together) the entire assembly was full of the Passionist beach balls and we were even holding our own with the official sponsors’ (ACU) beach balls. They were immensely popular and we had people coming up and asking if they could have some throughout the festival.
We spent a solid half an hour blowing all of these up before every plenary session, before we kicked/threw them into the crowd left, right and centre. This photo was taken just before we did just that during the concert before the final mass.
The Passionist Youth Retreat Team also had two games sessions that were run in one of the small stadiums, which also went very well. I ran one and Jo McDade ran the other one. We were successful in handing out many of our beach balls during these sessions, too!
On our drive back from Sydney, Kevin took us to Mary’s Mount, Goulburn as a way of showing us where many in the province have a lot of strong memories! It was quite a moving experience to be able to put an image to the many stories we’re always hearing about “Goulburn” and we were all very appreciative of being able to see it. It is now, as many will know, a set of apartments.
Overall, it’s been a fantastic two weeks! I feel very lucky/blessed to have been part of it all!