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Year of Youth School forums

As part of the Year of Youth, the Church over the last week has reached out in a tangible way to young people throughout the Melbourne Archdiocese. 
In an initiative of Catholic Education Melbourne and the Archdiocesan Office for Youth, Melbourne auxiliary Bishop Mark Edwards OMI hosted a series of School Forums across Melbourne. Located in Dandenong (Monday), Altona (Tuesday), Box Hill (Thursday) and Epping (Friday), hundreds of school students gathered from the entire Archdiocese. They came for the opportunity to meet personally with Church leaders and were encouraged to discuss issues they face, put forward their concerns and their own vision for the future.
As Bishop Edwards stated in his invitation to participate, ‘One of the goals of the Year of Youth is that young people are listened to by the senior members of the church community.
‘An important part of this process will be small groups where students will share their experiences and be listened to by a Church leader.’
In his own address to students, before the schools divide up into groups of around eight for personal discussion, Bishop Edwards speaks of his own journey of faith, exhorting young people to ponder their role in the church.
He urged the students to be saints. ‘It’s ok for you to totally trust God,’ he encouraged. ‘When you do that, like the saints, you won’t lose yourself, you’ll find yourself, you’ll find God, and you’ll find peace and joy.
‘Be like Peter on Galilee,’ Bishop Edwards implored. ‘You’ll be looked after. Follow your heart. You won’t sink in the storm, ever.’
A particular focus of the Church at this time, affirms Bishop Mark, is its quest for new strong leaders, with vision, with courage, boldly to take the Church forward. ‘Not just the Church, but families need leaders too,’ says the Bishop. ‘You guys here today, you can be leaders in your own families, in your schools, in your communities. So go right ahead … lead!
‘You know what’s right, and you have the courage and the grace to do it. So do it.’
As well as Bishop Mark Edwards, the School Forum were geared around an inspirational presentation by American musician, storyteller and evangelist Steve Angrisano, who shares anecdotes and powerful stories to inspire the students.
The key to the forums has been the opportunity for the students to participate in small groups where each student shares their experiences in a candid, open, informal, personal discussion that is listened to by a Church leader. Notes are taken in each group and collected at the end of each day to form a comprehensive report to Bishop Edwards and the Church hierarchy as a powerful guide for the Church in creating its framework for the upcoming Catholic Plenary Council in 2020.
The forums wrap up with Bishop Mark hosting a Q & A session with the students, allowing them to directly address the issues that resonate with them and allowing Bishop Mark to listen and respond. This process has  given a very direct insight into the concerns, opinions and thought processes of students across the Archdiocese.
Bishop Edwards encourages young people everywhere to get involved with their Church.
‘We need you young people like never before,’ he said. ‘We need you as leaders. We want to know what you think. We want to listen to you and engage with you. So speak up!’ 
This article originally appeared on the Melbourne Catholic website 

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