Proclaim 2018 strikes a chord with youth

Community and News Proclaim 2018 CONTENTThe Proclaim 2018 Conference took place across 12–14 July at the Edmund Rice Performing Arts Centre in Brisbane, where CCI Personal Insurance was a proud sponsor. A biennial gathering of faith-based communities and attendees from around the country, the event took to the road for the first time this year, having spent its previous three iterations in Chatswood, Sydney.

We sat down with Michael King, Mission Projects Officer at the National Centre for Evangelisation Australia, to talk about the 2018 conference, and what’s in store for the future of Proclaim Conferences.

How did the Proclaim Conference come into being, and how would you describe its overall mission?

Since 2012, Proclaim has been a gathering of grassroots people in the Catholic church, all across Australia. It came about after the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference looked at the whole national scene and decided it wanted a conference held every two years.

The Bishops Conference looks to Proclaim to renew parishes and other faith-based communities, whether that’s religious-like communities or some of the new movements that have entered the church since the Vatican Council.

When I say ‘renew’ – that’s a key word. It can basically be translated to mean: helping parishes grow and attract new people, as well as try to get those parishes on track with what they’re supposed to be doing. That is, keeping the idea of evangelisation in their minds, and also acting and living in communities with each other.

Essentially, the Conferences are about growing parishes and making them stronger as parishes, and helping them reach beyond their own borders into the community to bring the good news to the people.

How did the theme of “Make your home in me” play into this year’s Conference?

That’s a scripture quote from the Gospel of John, and they are the words of Jesus. So, the idea is that if you make the ‘home’ of your life in Jesus, then you become really closely connected with Him. When that happens, you become fruitful – meaning you are able to make a lot of change in the world. You are able to change people’s hearts.

Proclaim took that idea and emphasised that we can’t really be effective as people – as Christians – unless we have an encounter with Jesus. And that word ‘encounter’ has been a key theme of Pope Francis.

So, people should nourish the encounter they’ve already had – nourish in prayer, and in sharing their faith with others. As a result of that, they’ll be able to go out into the community and work together, and the fruitfulness will come in reaching the world outside the church.

One of the five focus points this year was on young people. As it’s also the Pope’s Year of Youth, can you describe the importance of the church connecting with young people these days?

Something to remember is that in every generation, the Christian message has to be put into new words and expressed in ways that will make sense to young people. The church is always looking at ways of how it can make sense to young people in their mid-teens and into early adulthood.

That’s a real challenge. But another big issue is that there have been a lot of people who’ve walked away from our church in Australia, and as a country we’re not seeing the proportion of young people truly engaging in our parishes like we used to. There’s a sense of urgency that we have to engage these young people into our church – not just by coming to mass on Sundays, but by actually being part of the community and the life of the church. A lot of work is being done on that.

Two keynote speakers, Ron Huntley and Karolina Gunsser, had lots of input on that, especially on the need to ‘listen’. An interesting thing about Karolina is that she is not Catholic, yet a lot of young people come to her church and she’s engaging them and connecting with them. Bringing someone to a conference who works in another Christian church wouldn’t have happened 10 years ago, but it shows broad thinking and that we’re willing to listen.

Bringing Karolina into Proclaim 2018 shows how widely we are listening, and how we are listening with more open hearts today than ever before.

What was your key takeaway from this year’s Conference?

My takeaway was: we have to do this together. People in parishes have to be willing to turn up, sit down, nut things out, plan and effect change together. The only way forward for the church in Australia is together, so it was good to see a lot of that at the Proclaim Conference.

How does the future look for Proclaim 2020 and beyond?

Proclaim was always intended to be a national conference, but obviously wherever it’s held, it’s going to be a long way for some people to come. So next time it’s going to travel again. It’s going to Melbourne in 2020, and it will take place sometime between early to mid-year. Where it goes beyond that, we don’t know. But it will continue to travel in 2022.

Keep up-to-date with the Catholic community by subscribing to our Community News.