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Spirits soar at summer youth event


Youth from across Adelaide gathered recently for three days of catechesis, praise and worship, the sacraments, prayer and fellowship at an event hosted by the Disciples of Jesus Covenant Community. 

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As temperatures around the city soared, the 86 youth and young adult participants gathered at The Monastery, Glen Osmond, for a program that included guest speakers, live music, reconciliation, Mass and some water activities to cool off.

The Summer Sessions Adelaide event was born when the annual eight-day Melbourne Summer School of Evangelisation was cancelled due to COVID restrictions.

Having recently coordinated a series of retreats in Adelaide, Missionaries of God’s Love Sister Bernadette Toohey saw an opportunity to continue to work locally to bring a shorter version of the Melbourne event to Adelaide.

“The idea began principally as a way of ministering to the youth who would normally travel to Melbourne, and also as a way to involve young people that might have never come along to the Melbourne event,” she said.

Sr Bernadette joined forces with Esma Gagliardi, leader of the Adelaide branch of the Disciples of Jesus, and a team of four Adelaide youth leaders – Sam Sachse, Sophie Dignan, Charl Abd Elmalk and Jess Sachse – to bring Summer Sessions to life.

“We had just finished running two retreats as a team together in Adelaide in October and so we kept on rolling with the idea of putting on a summer youth event in Adelaide,” Sophie said.

The team overcame the obstacles of running an event in COVID times, including the need for limited numbers and density restrictions, and unpredictable border closures.

“We had to stay so flexible right up until a week to go, when the SA border opened to NSW. Our coordinator, guest presenters and priest chaplain were all coming from NSW so a lot of prayer went into getting that border open in time,” reflected Sophie.

The final program featured a range of keynote speeches, lectures and workshops from Church and youth ministry leaders from Adelaide and interstate.

Guest musicians Nicole Digal and Tom Ringrose-Voase joined with Adelaide praise and worship group United Flame to bring a series of live worship sessions to the program.

For Karina Carman, 33, the event was a great opportunity to bring young people from the Spanish youth group to experience the wider Church in Adelaide. “We were just so delighted to be a part of something so exciting, engaging and enriching for the youth and for us as leaders.” she said.

Reuben Calleja, 15, described the event as life-changing: “I found it really fulfilling to make new friends with like-minded people who helped me to develop a more intimate relationship with God.”

One of the event’s MCs, Merridy Hollitt, who has recently returned from a volunteer year with Youth Mission Team Australia, said the response was overwhelmingly positive.

“It was amazing to see the City of Churches really coming alive in the Spirit,” she said. “Everyone was buzzing and proud to have such a united Catholic event in Adelaide. I don’t think the young people wanted it to end!”

Charl Abd Elmalk, a youth leader in Noarlunga parish, said it was “such a joy to see the youth of Adelaide unite like this”. “I can’t wait to see it happen again,” he said.

Organisers hope to keep the momentum going by linking the youth to events and ministries already happening in Adelaide, with plans for the team to work together again in the future.

For more information on future events email To keep up-to-date with what’s happening for youth and young adults in the Archdiocese of Adelaide, visit



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