MGL Sisters YoY Mission crop
MGL Sisters Mission for rural youth ministry

A Youth Team led by the MGL Sisters have responded to the Year of Youth by taking up a nine-month mission to rural dioceses around Australia. 

An idea birthed at the announcement of the Year of Youth two years ago is now bearing fruit for regional dioceses around Australia, with a youth team led by the Missionaries of God’s Love (MGL) Sisters travelling to three remote dioceses in 2018.

Three MGL Sisters (Therese Mills, Bernadette Toohey and Amy McCabe), two MGL brothers (Buddhika Perera and Nelio Dos Reis) and five lay young people (Jessica Bond, Xavier Direen, Aodhan Kirk, Larissa Lagas and Nathlene Ng) have recently arrived in the Diocese of Townsville. The team will stay until May to assist with local youth engagement and youth leadership training before moving to the Dioceses of Darwin and Port Pirie for three months each for the remainder of 2018.

The Sisters felt inspired to reach into regional dioceses after the announcement of the Year of Youth came amidst the 2015 Australian Catholic Youth Festival in Adelaide. “Much of our work at the moment takes place in the context of city youth ministry, where there are large youth offices and ample opportunities for youth engagement. We were inspired to reach further afield in the Year of Youth to ensure that youth in the remotest areas of our country receive the opportunity to engage with the life of the Church and know about this year that has been set aside with them in mind,” says MGL Sister Bernadette Toohey.

A number of lay young men and women have responded to the opportunity to volunteer on the team for nine months, motivated by the opportunity to meet young people in rural parts of our country and participate in the Year of Youth in a meaningful way.

New Zealand-based youth minister Jessica Bond, 25, jumped at the opportunity to work with the MGL Sisters and continue youth ministry within Australia. Her passion is that all young people would come to know of the personal and transformative love of God: “I would have made different life choices if I knew Jesus as a friend and as someone who cared about me from the beginning. I’d love to think that every young person could know that and not have to wait until they’re an adult to know that Jesus can be a central part of your life.”

For Aodhan Kirk, 19, the chance to serve within the church in Australia was a large part of his decision to join the team from his hometown of Murrumbateman, NSW. “After doing missionary work overseas I really had a sense of the need that there was in my own country to bring Jesus to people and the challenge that presents and I got excited about that. The opportunity to see and minister to many parts of the Australian Church within the Year of Youth was something that sat well with me and that I saw as a really awesome opportunity.”

The team members are looking forward to forging authentic connections and seeing the Holy Spirit at work in a range of places around Australia. “We are very aware that the places we visit are each flourishing in their own way and have a uniqueness and giftedness already present. We’re hoping to bring some support and encouragement in partnering with dioceses, parishes, schools and young people who are remote and at times isolated from opportunities to connect,” says Therese, who is leading the team.

Front of mind for the team are the Year of Youth goals, which look promote the national vision for youth ministry, Anointed and Sent, as well as being attentive to the joys and trials of the young. “The Anointed and Sent document is the basis of our formation and training for young leaders, so we’ll be looking to use this document as a basis for our youth ministry framework,” says Therese. “I’m a big fan of it! I love the way the document is clever in covering all areas regarding youth ministry and that leaders can use it as a guideline for their ministry.”

The hopes of the team, and those with whom they are working, is that a difference will be felt by the contribution they are offering. “I guess it’s that old adage that if it makes a difference to one person, one group or one youth minister then we will have met our goal. We’re part of an incarnational faith, so coming into someone’s home diocese, parish, school or youth group there’s an incredible sense of having the opportunity to meet people, walk with them for a while, listen and become connected. I’ve no doubt that we’ll be very changed and will grow through those we meet as well,” reflects Bernadette.

For Jessica, the goal is that any change or difference could be ongoing and lasting: “A key part of this mission is sustainability – I’d be over the moon if things that we establish are able to keep running once we leave and if we can leave young people buzzing about their faith and the joy that they have found.”

As we begin the Year of Youth, the team is an excited to be a part of the growth, engagement and creativity that is hoped will occur during this special year. Aodhan reflects: “I’d love to see growth and revival in the Church in Australia and see many young people seek Jesus in the context of the Catholic Church.”