Young people in Dunedin diocese have sent a clear message about the importance of considering them not as “the future of the Church”, but as members able to contribute fully to the life of the Church in the here and now. Some 25 young Catholics participated in the “Hunt for Jesus People”, a forum that explored faith and leadership, held at the Mercy Parish community centre in south Dunedin on September 3.

Kavanagh College students Ben O’Farrell and Lucy Wilkins said they left the forum feeling positive about being a young person in the Church.

“I found the experience was helpful in a way that it caused the youth present – and the adults too, I hope – to question their thoughts on important subjects such as what it means to be a ‘Jesus Person’, how we personally can contribute to our Catholic community and what we
think might make the Catholic Church more popular in the future,” Miss Wilkins said.

Mr O’Farrell said he learned a lot from the speakers whose talks were “powerful”.

“They didn’t seem to worry too much about what people thought of them. They had quite a deep faith and they relied on that,” he said.

He said he realised that people needed to nurture and develop their faith as well.

“You sort of feel quite positive. The biggest thing for me was these people developed their faith rather than just having it. I gave me a bit of confidence. It’s not like I don’t have it and maybe everyone has the potential for deep faith. We just have to develop it,” he said.

The forum started with a welcoming message from Dunedin Bishop Colin Campbell.

Tihei Maihi and Jacob Bang from Challenge 2000 and Joanna Viernes from Caritas talked about their faith journeys.

They spoke of why they were passionate about their faith and why they are working in areas where they can live their faith.

Dunedin diocese pastoral leader Amy Armstrong said she was thankful they asked the young people what they needed from the Church instead of making assumptions.

“There was a clear message about the importance of connection and belonging within the wider community, and how crucial they feel it is to be welcomed and affirmed and given opportunities and how grateful they felt to be heard and asked what they thought,” she said.

Ms Armstrong said that being asked their thoughts helped them claim their place in the Church.

“If we are going to be serious about saying the youth are our Church, we need to treat them like that. We have to honour their place in the Church,” she said.

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