The festival kicked off with a Welcome to Country, followed by Canadian Catholic music star Matt Maher blasting the stage in praise of Jesus, and an opening address by Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher.
Archbishop Fisher, the Bishops’ Delegate for Youth, challenged the young people present to follow the example of Mary and “Say Yes” to the plans God has for their lives. He also reminded them of Pope Francis’ call for young people not to live as “couch potatoes”.
Grammy-nominated Maher, who plays at youth festivals around the world, said he believed such gatherings helped young people to meet their struggle for a sense of identity and belonging.
“To belong to something bigger than yourself, and to ask who am I and what’s my place in the world,” he said. “All it takes is a few people exhibiting the joy of Jesus and that joy is infectious and gives that sense of belonging and being part of a narrative that’s bigger than ourselves.”
About 15,000 people gathered in Sydney’s Domain on the Saturday evening for the final Mass where it was announced that the next ACYF will be held in Perth in 2019.
Adelaide Archdiocese youth coordinator Peter Bierer and his wife Lauren performed at the festival and there was a strong contingent of youth from Adelaide and Port Pirie dioceses representing their parishes and youth groups.
ACYF17 Youth Ambassador Melinda Kousoukas said that such festivals gave young people an opportunity to hear from role models in faith and to develop leadership skills.
“It’s also about the relationships, and feeling connected and the friendships you make,” she said.
Adelaide-born NSW Swifts netballer and ‘tween’ author Maddy Proud shared how her faith has formed her journey as an elite athlete in one of the panel sessions.
A graduate of Sacred Heart College at Somerton Park, Maddy spoke about the importance of timing in sport and how she was fortunate to be recruited as a mid-courter by the Adelaide Thunderbirds as a 16-year-old and then join the Swifts for the inaugural Suncorp Super Netball league.
“I have to enjoy every moment…and my faith helps puts everything into perspective,” she said.
Maddy’s first book Grace on the Court will be released in January and can be pre-ordered through www.blackincbooks.com.au/books/grace-court.
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