Echoing the call made by St John Paul II, American speaker Timothy Glemkowski called on young Catholic Kiwis not to be afraid to give themselves completely to God.

Mr Glemkowski, founder of the Chicago-based L’Alto Catholic Institute and the keynote speaker at the 2018 SetFree Festival, said he was impressed by the young Kiwis he met at the event. It was held at the South Waikato Sport and Events Centre in Tokoroa on March 23-25.

“The leadership, all who fit in the “young adult” category, were dynamic, smart, passionate and threw one of the most well-produced conferences that I have ever attended,” he said. “The youth, coming from all different levels of personal faith, were open and sincere and by the end of the weekend, were very enthusiastic about what Christ had done for at SetFree.”

Mr Glemkowski told NZ Catholic his message to the teens who came to SetFree was a spin on St John Paul’s “incredibly powerful message for our time”. The festival’s theme was “Be not afraid”.

“I think, so often, we hold back in our relationship with God, afraid to really give ourselves to him completely. We don’t want to be mocked, maybe, or are afraid that if we follow Christ with our entire lives that we will somehow lose some of ourselves and our freedom,” he said.

“Jesus himself said, ‘I came that they might have life and have it more abundantly’. The beginning of living that abundant life, I think, is found in not being afraid to abandon our entire lives into the hands of the living God who alone can satisfy all of the desires of our hearts,” Mr Glemkowski added.

Around 270 young people from throughout New Zealand participated in the festival. Hamilton diocese youth worker Ciara Lovelock, one of the organisers of the event, described the festival as a “huge success”.

“The energy was phenomenal! It was fantastic to have Bishop Steve [Lowe] join us all weekend, as well as the Exalt music team from Christchurch, and lots of engaging speakers,” she said.

Ms Lovelock said the feedback they had received so far was very positive.

“Everyone had a lot of fun, and many young people encountered Christ and his Church,” she said.

Ms Lovelock said the youth appreciated the insights they have gained from Mr Glemkowski as well as from other speakers at the festival.

Mr Glemkowski founded L’Alto Catholic Institute to help parishes become more effective at forming disciples.

“Our world is becoming increasingly secular in post-modernity and many of our parishes are not properly equipped.  Again, my hero, St John Paul II said that, ‘it is more necessary than ever for all the faithful to move from a faith of habit, sustained perhaps by social context alone, to a faith which is conscious and personally lived’,” he said.

“I think that is really the heart of the new evangelisation.”

He said that in response to contemporary cultural challenges, the Church has to become effective at helping every single Catholic imitate the apostles and first disciples.

He noted that most parishes are in “maintenance mode” rather than “mission oriented”.

“That is where we come alongside parishes to accompany them through a process of cultural renewal centred around helping them cast [a] vision for a parish of missionary disciples,” he said. “We help the entire parish to define where they are going and how they are going to get there and then help them implement that plan.”

Mr Glemkowski said he saw a lot of hope for the future of the Catholic faith in New Zealand at the festival.

“I hope it grows bigger and bigger every year! For any parents of young people or young people themselves who are reading this article, I want them to know that this is a can’t miss event!”

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