Why ACYF will Change Hearts and Lives

Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese,
4 Oct 2017

By Debra Vermeer

It's been a big year of new experiences for Ashleigh Green and, as an Ambassador for the Australian Catholic Youth Festival (ACYF), she is urging other young people to take a leap of faith into the unknown by signing up for the event to be held in Sydney in December.

"Give it a go," she says. "Step outside of your comfort zone and just give it a go."

Ashleigh, 25, who lives on the Central Coast and works as a social worker for CatholicCare Broken Bay, stepped out of her own comfort zone on two occasions this year when she was selected to represent Australian young people at conferences in Rome.

The journey began in April when she was nominated to accompany the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference Director of the Office for Youth, Malcolm Hart, to a conference in Rome with 270 young people from around the world, as part of preparations for the 2018 Synod on Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment.

Following that, Ashleigh was selected to return to Rome earlier this month for another pre-Synod meeting, this time with just 20 others from various countries.

"The meetings were about listening to the voice of young people in the local church, so that it's not just people in Rome organising the Synod on Youth," she says.

"It was a great experience. I think the main thing I came away with was that the Church really does want to  hear the experiences of young people. We got the sense that we were really listened to and in fact some of the suggestions we made were actually implemented during the conference."

Ashleigh says that meeting young people from all over the world and hearing their stories was inspiring.

"There was one girl from Syria, and her story was amazing," says Ashleigh. "She said that every time she ended up in a new place as a refugee, the Church was there to help, and she felt that in each place the Church was her home."

Ashleigh says her fellow delegates at the Rome meeting were fascinated to hear about the big ACYF being planned for Olympic Park, Sydney from December 7-9.

A veteran of two World Youth Days, in Sydney and Poland, as well as the two previous ACYF's in Melbourne and Adelaide, Ashleigh says these big gatherings have deepened her faith and broadened her experience of Church.

"These celebrations have a really great atmosphere," she says. "You can really feel the presence of the Holy Spirit there.

"Often, young people in parishes can feel isolated and a bit alone, but when you come to something like this, you see you're not alone and that's a really powerful feeling."

She says the upcoming ACYF, the biggest youth gathering in Australia since Sydney's World Youth Day in 2008, will change hearts and lives.

"It's going to have something that touches and inspires everyone, so I would just say, if you haven't been to one of these festivals before, step out of your comfort zone and give it a go."