By BRENDAN ROBERTS
From October 28-30, 120 young adults gathered at Ngaruawahia Christian Camp for the CFC Singles for Christ (SFC) Oceania Regional Conference. Delegates travelled from as far away as Darwin, Cairns, Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra, and from as near as Auckland, Hamilton and Christchurch to attend the conference.
The event was the first in-person SFC conference for two years because of the Covid-19 pandemic. It was open to non-SFC members, and began on the Friday night with the rosary, followed by Mass celebrated by Fr Mark Napa of St Joseph’s, Takapuna. After the Mass, the atmosphere was one of colourful flashing lights and booming music through a live band. There was a parade by the delegates, followed by hip hop style dancing. The latter evoked screams of joy at the tremendous dancing talent that was displayed.
The theme of the conference was “Authentic”. There were also subthemes of “We are Catholic”; “Family is a gift” and “Called to be sent out as missionaries”. On the Saturday, Mass was celebrated again and, through talks, deeply moving testimonies of fellow Catholics embracing challenges with faith, workshops and groups the young adults, were reminded that they are called to know and love their Catholic faith, to be understanding and forgiving in families, while bringing peace.
They were also challenged not to be afraid or ashamed to admit that they love God and are called to seek holiness by becoming more like Christ and following his commandments. This included being Christ in their places of study, work and at home. It also meant knowing about God and having a relationship with God. Furthermore, they were challenged to follow their vocation of who they hope to be and God’s personal call to them to be religious, to be single or to be in married life.
During one of the workshops, title “I am Catholic”, the young adults were encouraged to reflect and then to share with a partner why they are Catholic and why they choose to remain Catholic. They were also reminded that God doesn’t walk away from us, but that people walk away from him.
In the evening, the young adults enthusiastically sang along in worship, which was followed by adoring the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament and Benediction. At the same time, a long queue formed for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. They were encouraged to surrender their fears, disappointments and lives to the Lord.
They arrived at the conference with the mixture of excitement and apprehension of the unknown but left with new friends, spiritually recharged and emboldened to face their fears and to be authentic Catholics in the wider world.