“Ignite” – An Annual Catholic Australian Conference

1 October 2013

 The vision and purpose of the Ignite Conference – what is it all really about and how is it different to the other conferences and youth events could be summed up with four Es:

• Encounter - Ignite is primarily about drawing not only young Catholics but families into an encounter with Jesus Christ. The New Evangelisation is at the heart of Ignite, connecting young people with the message of the Gospel and the Sacraments of Eucharist and Reconciliation;

• Experience – It is about offering an experience of the Church and the Catholic faith that is positive and relevant, of worship that is engaging and alive, and a personal experience of the power and grace of the Holy Spirit which is at the centre of the New Evangelisation;

• Equip – It is about being equipped in skills and abilities for living the Christian life and serving in mission. Areas of formation include elements of the Catholic faith as well as topics as diverse as leadership, evangelisation, worship, creative arts, social justice, vocation, sexuality and more;

• Empower - Finally, it is about raising up young Catholics to be part of the Church of today, and to be a generation empowered to transform the world and the Church wherever they find themselves.

“Ignite 2013” was held in the huge and well equipped premises of a college in north Brisbane from 26th – 29th September, (Thursday evening to Sunday afternoon). This annual event, initiated by the Emmanuel Community more than ten years ago, has grown and become the largest Catholic Australian youth conference with more than a thousand participants. This year, for the first time, the District Superior of
Australia, Sr. Teresa Lau, decided to take part in the Vocation Expo held within the venue during “Ignite 2013” and appointed a team consisting of 3 professed Sisters, 2 novices and 2 postulants to work under the leadership of Sr. M. Joseph Sze, the Vocation Promoter, for this Vocation Expo.

Having met right after the annual retreat in July, the members of the team divided the work of preparation among them, chose the appropriate banners and printed matters for display or distribution, and decided on the types of activities to engage the participants of “Ignite” in listening and responding to God’s call with the quote from Isaiah, “Here I am, send me!”(Is. 6:8), which was also chosen as the official motto for the Conference. The team members rallied the help of their communities, including the novitiate, to work on the preparation.
When the “big” day came, two big vehicles were used to drive the team and all the items and equipment to the Conference venue. When representatives of some other religious congregations, the local seminary and various ministries of the diocese had also put up their materials for display, crowds of people began to flow in. It was very touching to see among them many families of three generations--- grand-parents, parents, young people, teenagers and kids--- freely engaged in the sessions of talks or activities catered for the needs of the different age groups.
Every morning and evening during the Conference, in the world-class auditorium of the college, there was a large concert-type rally for all participants to come together for praise and worship as well as for faith-sharing given by some youth leaders on stage. Then participants went to their selected workshops or presentations on various aspects of faith or ministry formation. A time was also allotted daily to the sharing of reflection on the Conference experiences in small groups.
Besides the Praise and Worship in the Auditorium of the Performing Art Centre of the college, for which the young and old all queued up for more than 30 minutes before the start, the chapel with the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament was also packed with participants and voluntary workers for silent adoration. For both the Eucharistic celebration and the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the queue of young people was incredible. On the third day, in small-group sharing, a parent reported to us how her timid teenaged daughter found from the Eucharistic adoration and Reconciliation confidence to stand against school bullies and bad peer group pressure. This mother also gained consolation for her efforts in faith formation of her daughter. The case of this parent and daughter certainly evidenced the achievement of the “4Es” of the Ignite Conference.
Since the time-table was fully packed, participants visited the Vocation Expo mainly during meal-times. What attracted most of them to our booth was the game Circle of Love. Children and even adults queued up to have a spin of the “Circle of Love” to receive a biblical quote, prayer card or rosary beads. This form of evangelization was simple and yet most delightful and hopefully effective. On the second day of the Conference, a little boy who realized that he had lost contact with his aunt who had brought him there was crying. The organizers failed to console him while making effort to search for his aunt. When this boy saw us and came to us, he stopped crying and said, “I now feel safe with the Sisters!” Throughout the whole duration of the Conference, the organizing team kept expressing their appreciation of our support. On our part, we were also appreciative of such wonderful experience. In addition to being touched by the lay people’s zeal for evangelization, we did learn quite a lot from the various workshops and talks in the areas of evangelisation and formation of young people. Indeed, we did catch the vision, engage in the New Evangelisation, and witness the transformation!

Sr. Damian Lai

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