by ROWENA OREJANA
“Open your eyes and look around!”
With that, Bishop Patrick Dunn exhorted more than 1000 young people from Auckland and Hamilton
at a World Youth Day celebration to live Catholic social teachings in their lives.
The theme of this year’s World Youth Day in Auckland, held on July 11-12, was social justice, which fits in with Auckland’s diocesan plan Fit 4 Mission.
The Auckland Catholic Youth Ministry team came out full blast on social media with hashtags #WYDAK2015, #TalkJusticeWithMe, #HandsofHope and #IStandFor.
Auckland Youth and Young Adult Ministry coordinator Teresa McNamara said advocacy is one of
eight components in Tu Kahihatea Standing Tall, the framework for Catholic ministry with young people in New Zealand.
“We’ve decided on this theme because of Fit 4 Mission and because we don’t do much around advocacy. We need to give young people a voice,” she said.
The weekend was filled with music, skits and dance revolving around issues of human dignity,
equality, participation, preferential treatment for the poor, solidarity, stewardship and subsidiarity.
On the Saturday evening, Danny Kettoola gave a presentation on the situation of Iraqi Christians.
The following evening, the Santa Cruz Youth of Papatoetoe presented their collaboratively written skit about issues such as bullying, domestic violence and poverty.
The presentations were so moving that guest speaker Phil Glendenning, president of the Refugee
Council of Australia, remarked, “this is a show that you should take on the road”.
Both Bishop Dunn and Mr Glendenning answered questions and gave advice and pearls of wisdom
on how to tackle social justice issues in the young people’s own way.
Mr Glendenning emphasised the need to work with people and not for them. He told the young people to “build relationships with people and model the change we want to see”.
“At the moment, the next 30 years look grim. You have the tools to raise awareness,” he said as
he pointed out the power of social media. “Unleash your creativity. Research and find out the issues and share them.”
He said change happens when people move together.
“If we want to do advocacy, we can’t do it alone,” he said.
He added that for advocacy to work, there should be a mobilising vision. “Martin Luther King said I have a dream. He didn’t say I have a strategic plan,” noted Mr Glendenning.
Bishop Dunn said while the issues might be too big for young people to tackle, they can take small steps.
“All you can do is take the initiative yourself. What would Jesus do? Take it to heart and live it day by day.”
Bishop Dunn said a point that he always keeps in mind is one that is attributed to Blessed
Oscar Romero. “When you look at injustice, you think you can’t do everything. Oscar Romero would say just pick one thing you can do,” he said.
He said small actions can actually bring about change. “Look at what you can do and do it,” he said.
Ms McNamara said the seeds have been planted and various youth groups are already thinking of
follow up activities.
“We have the PF1 project. PF stands for Pope Francis. This is a social justice group for young people in the Auckland diocese. We have an ongoing opportunity to be advocates, to do research and be better informed about the issues of the day,” she said.
She noted that a west Auckland group is planning to learn about mental health issues and about supporting people who have mental health problems.
She said Auckland Catholic youth will also be putting together a Hands of Hope book that will be given to the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference and to Pope Francis.
The book will be a collation of pages with traced outlines of young people’s hands. In the spaces within the outlines they have put issues that concern them and possible solutions.
In summary, Ms McNamara said: “I think, for me, the weekend showed that young people are very
capable of breaking open deep and difficult and challenging topics. And often, within the Church context, we leave it to older people with more experience to take the lead. So I would really encourage people to think about what young people they have within their parish or their community and how they can have a voice in their community,” she said.