Rapid growth of junior youth ministry
One of the great successes and hidden treasures of the Archdiocese’s Youth Ministry has been the growth of primary school Youth Ministry, growing from two schools and one parish in its pilot year to nine schools and five parishes this year.
Students from Year 3-6 have been invited to take part in Journey with Jesus Retreats and junior youth groups and the response has been amazing according to Youth Minister Sarah Larkin.
“I’ve been working at St Matthews in Page and St Vincent’s, Aranda and I’ve been heading into the schools and working on the junior Catholic Schools Youth Ministry Australia (CSYMA) program,” she said
“We’ve run a couple of Journey with Jesus retreats early in the year, and then from there we created a Junior Youth Ministry team in school and all the kids have been really excited and keen to be involved in that group.
“We’ve also been running Youth Masses at the Parish for the first time and our new junior aged youth group for students in years 3 to year 6 and it’s just tripled in size.
“We had about twenty kids come along on the weekend and that was the first one of the year and so I think it will keep on growing.”
That interest has been echoed at other schools and parishes.
Youth Minister Sarah Pearson and Holy Trinity Primary School REC Emily Capper ran a Journey with Jesus Retreat on February 18 and held their first junior youth group on February 25 with 20 students coming along. They have hopes for a similar attendance for the St Peter and Paul’s Garran Retreat on Friday March 8.
Other Youth Ministers from the Archdiocese have experienced similar responses.
The Journey with Jesus program for primary school students have only been running for six months and are already kicking major goals. And Sarah said that there is opportunity for the programs to grow.
“I think it’s a program that’s really expanding across Canberra and elsewhere, just because it’s so good to get primary school students interested in their faith while they’re young and then they can hopefully transition across to High School and adult life,” she said.
The Junior model will also develop this year with raining programs for the Junior Youth Ministry Teams and an Archdiocesan Primary Youth Ministry gathering called “Illuminate.”
Sarah said she wanted to thank Fr Simon Falk at South Belconnen for his involvement, as well as RECs Luke Maher and Sylvia Campbell at St Matthew’s and St Vincent’s respectively, and also Lena and Graham, the principals of those schools.
Parents and primary students interested in the Page and Aranda junior youth groups and related programs are welcome to come along on the fourth Saturdays of each month at 4.45pm just before 6pm Youth Mass.
Fr Simon Falk backgrounds the South Belconnen Junior Youth Ministry
At the ‘Mission Team’ part of the Catholic Education consultation, Studio Curious (2018), a group of three teachers and one priest worked on a proposal of linking school and parish.
The discussion evolved and a junior youth ministry emerged. The proposal was approved by the South Belconnen Parish Pastoral Council and Finance Committee, and the two schools in the Parish (St Vincent’s Aranda and St Matthew’s Page).
The idea was for a youth ministry to establish a rapport across the people in parish and school, to get young people in the schools engaged, to form a parish-based youth group from Year 3 students upwards, to assist with preparation in the sacramental program.
All of this is progressing at both a pleasing rate and in a good spirit.
The Youth Group meets on the fourth Sunday of the month and then come to the 6pm Mass. It has engaged parents as well.
What was not expected, was the impact on the wider parish. Parishioners of all ages are enthused by our Youth Minister, Sarah Larkin, from the elder ones, to younger families, students and teachers alike.
It is as if this youth ministry is one of the catalysts in the renewal of our amalgamating parish.
Fr Simon Falk