Commencing before World Youth Day in Sydney 2008, ACTiv8
welcomes children in Year 3 up to senior high school students and
encourages them to participate in a variety of activities, within
and beyond the church. The program has drawn significant numbers,
particularly to the 6.00pm Sunday Mass at St Joseph's East
ACTiv8 Youth Team Leader Anne Maher, 26, shares the latest
development in a model that she hopes and believes might one day
spread throughout the diocese and even farther afield.
"What began as a rather vague dream has become a reality.
As a leader, with a background in the social sciences, I was
finding it difficult to cope with the work generated in Youth
Ministry, even with the extraordinary support of several devoted
volunteers. Yet I wanted to expand the ministry, so I asked
for assistance from the regional community last year. I spoke
at all Masses about my dream and received unbelievable
The latest dimension of the ACTiv8 model involves three first
year university students living in community, sharing a flat at the
Bishop's House Maitland. All accommodation and living costs
are covered. In return, the students help organise and
participate in all regional youth activities. Parishioners
have been outstanding with offers of cooked meals and cash
donations for basics such as milk, bread, laundry supplies and
transport. Most have made this an ongoing commitment.
At present, four university students are committed to this
innovative Youth Team. They are Katrina Humphries-Ford from
Taree, Sam Hill, Kara Spears and Elspeth Macpherson, all from the
local region. Each is contributing her own unique skills:
Katrina is a talented musician while Sam and Kara have a particular
affinity with young people and Elspeth has previously worked with
young people in the Archdiocese of Canberra & Goulburn. Kara,
Sam and Katrina will continue to work with Anne. The girls
have made an extraordinary commitment to dedicate their time and
energy to work with young people this year, while they proceed with
their university studies. Each meets once a fortnight with a
pastoral carer to deal with any issues they may face.
Anne says that the girls, "attend the four weekly area youth
groups, help co-ordinate the weekly youth Mass and run outreach
events." These include preparing for the annual 'Battle of the
Bands' competition and assisting with Stations of the Cross on Good
Friday. The girls are also involved in local schools,
participating in Year 6 leadership days and a five week Year 5
student course. They are engaged in secondary school retreats
In all aspects of ACTiv8, the standout feature
iscommunity. There is an abiding sense of unity and a
co-operative spirit which is evident when you meet the girls.
They live, pray and eat together. They also work alongside
each other in the variety of tasks associated with the ministry by
youth for youth. The Regional Pastoral and Finance Councils,
local Church communities and regional schools are making this new
endeavour possible by their continuous sustenance, sponsorship and
support. It's a 'win-win' situation for everyone.
Anne hopes this movement will become stronger since, "We're at
the stage of cementing policies so that it is ongoing." She
believes, "God has big things for this diocese; we went through a
desert time when people kept asking where were the young people,
what are we doing? These questions are being answered now."
She imagines a time when Elspeth, Katrina, Sam and Kara will be
working in the broader Church and communities. Her hope is to
strengthen the bond between parish and schools, and these young
women are creating the foundations of that partnership.
Once the girls have completed this program and their university
qualifications, Anne knows they will have the proficiency to begin
youth leadership ministry roles within the diocese. "This movement
will spread out to young people who are on fire for the
Church." Anne's excitement about the opportunities for local
young people is palpable. With her happy enthusiasm, the
fidelity and promise of Elspeth, Kara, Sam and Katrina, and the
support of the community and schools, it's clear that ACTiv8 will
continue to invite young people to a Church that welcomes them, and
is more vibrant because they are there.