by MINA AMSO

The largest ever gathering of young Chaldean people in Auckland, which took place last month, proved that God can do miracles no matter what the situation.

Fadi Yalda, convention oganiser and ex-seminarian, said the planning team felt young people were hungry for spiritual renewal. He witnessed youth queueing up, sometimes up to 16 individuals at a time, for confession, and this was running until late each night, despite having four to five priests available.

“I myself didn’t expect it,” said Mr Yalda.

He added that the demand for confessions meant organisers had to cancel planned night activities like the
Burma trail, a bush walk within the camp complex.

“We had to have the lights out [too] because that’s part of the rules of the camp. So we told them to come back tomorrow night. And Saturday was the same thing, and Sunday night the same thing.”

Fr Douglas Al-Bazi, parish priest of the Chaldean church of St Addai the Apostle in Auckland, believed it was the grace of God calling young people to confession.

“I would not say [I am] surprised, but the grace of our Lord will always provide a way. It doesn’t matter if one is young or old, but it is how much we are open to God.

“It is the [continuation] of the miracles of how God shows us his love,” said Fr Al-Bazi.

“I think the youth are hungry, are really hungry. They need the spiritual food,” said Mr Yalda.

The convention, run every two years, with the first having been in Sydney, and a subsequent one in Melbourne, was organised by the archdiocese of St Thomas the Apostle, the Chaldean Eastern Catholic Church in Australasia.

Priests and speakers from Auckland, Christchurch, Australia and the United States attended the January event, including Archbishop Amel Nona, the Archbishop of St Thomas Chaldean Catholic Diocese of Australia and New
Zealand.

Members of the Beatitudes community from Christchurch were also at the meeting.

The convention was attended by 160 young people, 130 of whom travelled from Sydney and Melbourne. There were
also speakers, priests and volunteers.

There was daily Mass, talks, group discussions, prayer, fun activities, separate workshops for men and women, as well as adoration and confession each night. The latter two were new for the convention.

The theme was taken from the First Letter of St John about the world not knowing the believers in Christ because it didn’t know Christ himself. Discussions were around being a disciple of Christ for the world, the persecution of Christians today and being a witness.

Hosting the convention was a big deal, said Fr Al-Bazi.

“There’s a difference between the two generations. The one that came from back home, Iraq, and the generation that grew up here and/or [later was] born here [in New Zealand] . . . so to have a convention like that in Auckland for our youth, for me, is actually to build bridges between generations and between our youth as well.”

“[The youth] were really happy. As they told me, especially from Auckland, they felt honoured to host the convention.”

Mr Yalda said young people of today need to spend time before the Blessed Sacrament, in a calm, quiet atmosphere
before the Lord, where they can sit and reflect upon their lives.

He said the majority of these young adults live in big cities and struggle to get a moment or two in silence, let alone have a reflective space and be intimate with Jesus.

Fr Al-Bazi said he is working with Archbishop Nona on future mission trips for the youth to serve Iraqi refugees in places like Iraq, Lebanon and Turkey.

The five-day convention began on January 16 and took place at the YMCA Camp Adair in Hunua, south Auckland.

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