AUSTRALIAN EXCHANGE PROGRAMME – Pamela Marie E. Consistente – Year 13
As a member of the Youth Executive Board for the Archdiocese of Southwark, the Education Commission offered us the opportunity to go to Canberra in Australia in an exchange programme with CSYMA, the Catholic Schools Youth Ministry Australia. I volunteered my interest and was fortunate enough to be chosen for the trip; I travelled with another student and three adults who were all members of the Education Commission. Our purpose for the trip was to observe the effectiveness of the CSYMA’s Youth Ministry Model and by attending their equipping school, as the Education Commission along with Archbishop Peter have been looking for a model that would help to encourage students to take a bigger role in their school’s religious conduct as well as being more active in their faith by possibly becoming a Youth Minister.
The first day was spent on sightseeing and we went to places such as the National Museum of Australia, Australia’s Parliament House and the Australian War Memorial. Kangaroos are frequent in the outskirts of the city and so there was always time to search for kangaroos in between the travels. For the rest of the week we attended the equipping school where we met young people from Canberra to Sydney to Darwin and even New Zealand. Meeting all these young people I thought it would be difficult to befriend them because I was not a Youth Minister however, this was not a problem at all as I made lots of new friends. I also had the pleasure of meeting and befriending Aboriginal Australians from Darwin; they showed us their culture through their traditional dances and paintings.
The equipping school consisted of lectures and workshops to enhance a Youth Minister’s training that ranged from New Evangelisation, drama techniques and games that would be used for pupils in the lower schools, practice for testimonies etc. Everyday there would be time for praise and worship where all of us would sing songs together, I would look forward to this time every day because I enjoyed the music and the singing. Additionally, there was also mass every day and it was my first time being exposed to charismatic worship in a Catholic Church, the masses I had were different to what I usually have but nonetheless I enjoyed it. Of course, the week had more things in store beyond the lectures and the workshops as throughout the week there was a talent show, a formal night for the Sabbath Dinner, a Youth Rally as well as free time to wander around Canberra. On the final day, there was a LEAD mass for the Youth that was led by the Archbishop of Canberra, whom I had the pleasure to meet and talk to and afterwards the Youth Rally took place for the students of the Catholic schools in Canberra.
I was very blessed to have been given this opportunity to go to Canberra and despite the tight schedule the whole trip was an experience that I would never forget. The trip has made me want to return to Canberra one day and visit the wonderful people that I met. I look forward to our Australian counterpart to visit in June as they may visit St Michael’s and I will be active with them throughout their visit. I am very thankful for Archbishop Peter, the Education Commission, and of course the teachers at St Michael’s for making this trip possible for me, without them I would not have been able to have this experience.