No generation of young people since World War II has been as exposed to testing and attack as today’s young people.

That was what homilist Fr Brian Prendeville, SM, told staff, students and members of the executive committee of the Federation of Catholic Bishops Conferences of Oceania at a Mass at De La Salle College in Mangere East on August 10.

Fr Prendeville, the parish priest in Otara, said “young people since 1945 are more targeted, you are more deceived, you are more thrown lies, you are more given to what others want of you, rather than being yourselves, true to yourselves”.

He pointed to a recent media focus on youth suicide in New Zealand, trying to raise awareness of the pressures experienced by young people today.

The Marist told Cardinal Sir John Ribat, MSC (from Papua New Guinea), and bishops from Australia, New Zealand and New Caledonia that Auckland is the biggest Polynesian centre in Oceania.

I know that “you would want me to say these things to these young men”, Fr Prendeville continued.

“You are not a number. You are not a police record. You are not a court appearance. You are not an NCEA level not achieved. You are not a loser. None of you are stupid. You are not like anyone else. You are not average. You are not trouble. You are not worthless . . . You are never a failure.

“But you are good. Let the good seed grow. You are God’s work of art. And God does not make rubbish. . .. God loves you.”

Fr Prendeville said that when “I get to heaven and I hope I will, I will be well aware of my failure, and my sins, but I will be waiting for God to say ‘you are beautifully made’”.

“How can we say, I am beautifully made? Because of Mary. Mary said ‘yes’ to the whole world, to all humanity, she said ‘yes’, I will be the mother of Jesus. When she said ‘yes’ I will be the mother of Jesus, and Jesus is our brother, she also says ‘yes’ to us all. I love you, you are mine, like a mother’s love, I love you.”

Although the Mass took place on August 10, the liturgy was that of the Solemnity of the Assumption, New Zealand’s national feast day. Prominent on the stage at the school hall was a statue of Mary that had been with De La Salle College since its opening in 1953.

At the penitential rite during the Mass, a fine mat was place over the heads of school principal Myles Hogarty, head student Jason Eteru and Bishop Robert McGuckin of Toowoomba, Australia, as an expression of penance. The mat was removed from over the kneeling men by Cardinal Ribat.

At the start of the Mass, Cardinal Ribat asked for prayer for the school and its staff, and for the New Zealand bishops. “Let us pray for . . . Bishop Pat Dunn, bishop of the diocese here. And I will pray for vocations.”

In a statement released after the FCBCO executive committee meeting finished, members said the De La Salle students’ enthusiastic participation in the liturgy “uplifted our hearts”.