Over 150 Year 6 students from Holy Family, Ingleburn; Mary Immaculate, Eagle Vale; and St Francis, Edmondson Park have been the first in the Diocese to participate in the Catholic Youth Ministry Wollongong team’s new ACTIVATE fire program.
(verb) to cause something to start; to make active or operative.
Synonyms: start up, set in motion, energise, trigger, initiate, animate.
Generously hosted by Holy Family, Ingleburn, in their new school hall, students from the three schools were all treated to a day-long immersive spiritual experience. A range of sessions were on offer throughout the morning and afternoon that included a mix of singing and prayer, discussion and reflection, games, workshops and other fun...plus the social opportunity of a sausage sizzle together at lunch.
Based on the Year 6 Religious Education unit, Confirmation: Celebrating the Gift of the Holy Spirit, the program is designed to move our young people from a passive experience of their faith towards a more active, mature and responsible engagement with God.
The experience also gives the children a taste of the youth ministry initiatives they will be offered in secondary school and a chance to share in our Catholic mission to spread the word and love of God through words and action.
The theme song - ‘Joy’ by Rend Collective - introduced the occasion and set the tone for the hours to come. While the students may have started off a little hesitant, it wasn’t long before they were getting into the music and wholeheartedly joining in the singing and dancing.
Together, the group generated a great energy together that only continued to strengthen as the day progressed. They discussed the nature of the sacraments, the symbols of Confirmation, the fruits of the Holy Spirit and the importance of prayer. They also explored the idea of taking ownership and responsibility for their faith, especially at an opportune time like their Confirmation.
“I learned we all have gifts and we all can share them with God. I’m hoping that I can use all the things [the CYMW team] taught us today at my Confirmation, and I can become closer to God and have a relationship with Him,” Holy Family student, Rachel, said.
With open hearts, the children actively engaged in understanding how to give witness to Christ in their lives and help others become closer to God, too. The CYMW team guided the students through this understanding, giving them everyday examples they could easily relate to. Games played throughout the experience served as a valuable interactive learning tool, allowing those participating to better grasp and apply the concepts they’d just discussed.
Year 6 also took time to write a small prayer about their intentions to take ownership of their faith and spread love and Good News on ‘prayer of heart’ cards. They came out of the day with a much clearer awareness and appreciation of their Catholic mission and how they could find these moments of connection with God in their own lives.
Many cited showing more love, kindness, gratitude and more generosity in helping others as key ways they could do so.
“My mission is to be the best version of myself that I can be,” Jorja from Mary Immaculate said.
“My mission is to have a journey with God, that I can become His child and help others to become like Him,” Holy Family student, Rachel offered with great earnest and hope.
“My mission is to spread the news of Jesus, and help people around me. Even just with common things that some people might need help with - like helping someone with school work or helping someone carry something across the road,” Mary Immaculate's Joshua, described.
The children particularly enjoyed the worship session, where they danced and sang along with every song played - each recognised as a prayer in itself. A widely-acknowledged favourite was the ‘Fruits of the Spirit’ song - just ask any of these students what the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit are, and they’ll be sure to now know them and recite them back to you!
CYMW leaders, Seth Harsh and Joel Duval, facilitated the day and said they couldn’t be happier with the response from the group and the success of this initial trial of the program.
“Students left buzzing with faith and an energy to continue the mission of the Church and to build the Kingdom of God,” Duval said.
“The young people had a great time by all accounts, and staff members had nothing but praise for the initiative,” Harsh agreed.
“Most importantly, the students had an opportunity to encounter Christ.”