Celebrating World Youth Day 2019

Founded by St John Paul II in 1984, World Youth Day is an event that brings together Catholic youth, aged between 18 and 35, from around the world. Led by His Holiness Pope Francis, the 2019 global event was held in Panama in January, and explored the theme ‘I am the servant of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word’ – Luke 1:38.

We spoke to Kathryn Kingsley, organiser of Melbourne’s first World Youth Day at home, to learn more about the week’s events and the importance of engaging youth in the Catholic community.

Engaging Catholic youth

“Each year, the Disciples of Jesus Community runs a Summer School of Evangelisation in Perth, Melbourne, Bathurst, and Paterson near Newcastle. The summer school has operated for 30 years in Australia, and runs for a week every January. It’s for young people aged 18 to 35, and this year was aligned with World Youth Day. The combined event of the Summer School of Evangelisation and Melbourne’s World Youth Day at home share many similar elements,” explains Kathryn Kingsley from the Missionaries of God’s Love (MGL) Sisters. 

Attendees participated in a range of World Youth Day-inspired events and sessions. This year included Catechesis-style plenary sessions with bishops and major speakers, a Saturday festival, Stations of the Cross,  lectures and workshops, seminars, presentations, mass and prayers.  

Administrating this year’s Summer School of Evangelisation and Melbourne’s World Youth Day, Kathryn says the event helps young people connect through “a journey together in faith, a formational experience, and deep prayer”.

A transformative experience

Kathryn believes events like this give young people an opportunity to explore their faith and relationship with Jesus in a more personal way.

“I think for a lot of people who come to our summer school, it’s the first time they feel a personal relationship with Jesus. It’s the first time they feel they enter a space where it’s real and they find connection in practical ways. They are given the opportunity to explore what that might look like for them. They start to see Jesus as a person, to relate to him, and to have a daily relationship with him as a friend.”

Kathryn’s attended her first Summer School of Evangelisation as a teenager, and it was a life-transforming experience. 

“I grew up in a Catholic family. We went to mass on the weekends. I went to a Catholic school, too. I always thought I had a good grounding in my faith but it wasn’t until I was 18 and out of school that I ended up at a Summer School of Evangelisation. I remember hearing the testimonies of people during the first few days. One person said that in their reconciliation experience they had felt a physical weight lift when they entered into a real relationship with God in the sacrament. I thought, Oh my gosh, I want that! I didn’t know it was possible. I thought reconciliation was when you went and listed things to reconcile. It was the first time that I really understood the grace that was available to me, in an active way.”

A lasting impact 

It was a moment that shaped Kathryn’s life. 

“I knew something was happening during my week there but it was only after I left that I started to realise what had happened to me. Through a process of prayer and community, and living together for a week, I had arrived at a place of surrender and where God’s love could enter my life, in an active way. I started having a renewed desire for prayer, the scriptures came alive, and I began to hunger for mass and the experience of adoration. It was an opportunity to open up to God in a new way, and I’ve definitely felt the fruits of that in my life. That was 12 years ago, and I’m an MGL Sister now.” 

Kathryn’s personal experience highlights the special place youth-focused events hold in the Catholic community, and the lasting impact they can have on attendees. CCI Personal Insurance was a proud sponsor of World Youth Day and World Youth Day @ Home, in 2019. It gave many people in Melbourne an opportunity to participate despite their inability to travel to Panama.

“For me, the great joy is watching that little light-bulb moment when a young person figures out that they are loved, and that love changes everything,” says Kathryn who assists youth in finding their true path to God through events just like World Youth Day.

“It nurture’s a stronger connection with faith.” 


Want to hear from this year’s participants? You can view their testimonials here. 

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