The weekend begins on Friday 7.30pm and ends on Sunday 9.30 pm. It consists of talks, discussions, shared prayer, music and recreation. There is a strong emphasis on scripture and the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist.
The team: 20-25 young people present the weekend. They give all the talks and lead the discussions. A priest and 2 or 3 other adults (ideally a married couple) are also part of the team.
An established community would spend two months or more in preparation for a weekend. A community in formation would take three to six months. In all the detailed preparation for the weekend, the overall consideration in judging the preparedness of the team is the love of the community.
These number 30-60, including the team. Age range is 16-20 (equivalent to Years 10-12 and a little older). Antioch draws on a wide range of young people from “swots” to “surfies” and from “ragers” to “goody goodies”.
The weekend is held in a parish centre, or local school. All meals are prepared and served by volunteer parishioners and younger brothers and sisters (the God Squad). On Friday and Saturday nights, the participants are welcomed into the homes of parishioners in “sleep groups”, i.e. separate groups of five boys, or five girls. Participants bring sleeping bags and sleep on the floor.
The weekend has a very strong prayer support from parishioners and other Antioch communities. Each participant has a special “prayer family” for the weekend
The Weekly prayer meeting is the official follow-up to the Antioch weekend. It is usually held on a Sunday night between 7.30 and 9.30 pm. and consists of a talk, share groups, shared prayer, music and fellowship. As on the weekend, it is run by the youth themselves, with adult support.
Attending a parish mid-week Mass together has become an established part of the community life. This is not anofficial part of the program, but has arisen spontaneously in Australia. Apostolic activities are practical ways of building community also, and members are active in many areas such as parish liturgy, visiting the aged and sick, pro-life, etc. Social activities are not formally part of the program, but they arise spontaneously and increase the sense of belonging to the Church community.
The purpose of the follow-up is to help our youth live as effective members of the Body of Christ, and to grow in their personal relationship with the Lord and with one-another. All members should feel free to come and go and yet always be welcomed back.
A donation (currently $50.00) is suggested from each person attending the weekend. This covers food, drinks, bibles (each participant receives a pocket-sized Good News), candles, postage, printing, etc.
Method of Spread
Antioch spreads from parish to parish. An interested parish sends a team of ten young people, together with a married couple and a priest and/or religious, to experience a weekend. This is followed by a formation period of 3 – 6 months, during which the original group invites others to join them, one at a time, until a community of about 20 young people is formed. When ready, they then put on their own parish weekend, which in turn is attended by a team from another interested parish.
Prayer is the key ingredient needed to underpin all this preparation.
It is recommended that two weekends per year are held in each parish.
When a weekend is being held for the first time in a parish, two or three experienced leaders from another community should be included in the presenting team. This provides background support and helps maintain the focus and spirit of the movement.
Selection of Initial team
This is crucial. It will decide the effectiveness of the future community. Antioch works on peer pressure. Therefore, it is essential to select the natural peer group leaders – not only the “Holy Joes”, but those who will pull in others naturally by their personalities.
As these young people are usually not very visible around the Church, it is important for the parish priest, or the adults concerned, to seek out these leaders through the advice of young people. Often the best leaders are those with a good faith back¬ground, but who are to be found at the pubs, clubs and in the centre of class restlessness at school. A neighbouring established Antioch community may be of great help here, as its members often attend the same regional school as potential leaders. Without attention to this aspect of Team selection, Antioch can still emerge as a valuable spiritual influence in the parish. However, its potential will be severely limited.
Antioch operates with a minimum of structure and the emphasis is on parish autonomy. Because of this autonomy, it is important that parishes be responsible for adhering to the guidelines of the Antioch experience and that they maintain links with the rest of the movement. To assist with this, there are co-ordinating teams at a diocesan and national level. Each usually comprises two youth, a married couple and priest or religious. Their role is to:-
- Maintain the focus and spirit of the movement
- Facilitate communication
- Provide accountability.
The Antioch National coordinators report to the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference.
Content of Weekend Talks:
All talks given on the weekend follow an established outline. The talks are written by youth, workshopped by adult supports and are read on the weekend. All talks rely heavily on personal sharing and emphasise the relevance of the Gospels to life experiences. The following is a brief summary of the content of the talks. Most talks are followed by a share group, while a few have a written reflection.
Introduction: Given by weekend leaders (boy and girl). A warm welcome and explanation of the format and style of the weekend.
God’s Call: Each one of us has a personal call from God. It’s up to us to respond.
Meditation on Prayer: Explains that prayer is an awareness of our union with God, which takes many’ forms. Creates a relaxed but motivational approach to prayer.
Meditation on Life as Giving: Jesus loves each of us personally and gave His life for us. Our lives can be an extension of that life of giving.
Self Image or God’s Image: We project an image to make us more acceptable to others, but God loves us even when we don’t live up to our image. We are made in His image.
Work of Christ: Christ is our bridge to the Father. We can participate in His work. Scripture is an important way of finding out more about this. Distribute New Testaments.
Being a Christian: A Christian is one who puts Jesus in the centre of his/her life. It is much more than just being a good person.
Christian Community: We are all called personally to belong to a community that is Christ-centred.
Meditation on the Eucharist: In the Eucharist, we celebrate the Bread of Life (Communion) and the people bound together in His Body.
Church and the World: We are the Church – a Christ-centred community of people in love.
Mission: We carry out Christ’s mission in our daily lives, as individuals and as a community.
Following Christ: A re-evaluation of lifestyle, attitudes, behaviour. Written reflection.
Working for Christ: To make this weekend the start of a growth experience, we need to make a personal commitment to Christ in some specific practical way and join regularly in the follow-up weekly prayer meeting.
Music is one of God’s great gifts, and an important component in the Antioch Weekend Experience. We cannot overestimate the power of music as ministry – the way in which it can set the mood, control emotions and behaviour, be a medium of prayer – touch the hearts of everyone during the course of the Weekend.
One only has to consider the influence and popularity of present day rock groups to recognize that music is a language of its own, and one that youth understand and relate to.
Too often in our parishes music is not an attractive or relatable force for youth – they are expected to fit in with an older, more adult reflective style of expression.
So Antioch provides a medium in which our young people can express their vitality and exuberance in authentic worships – and have a lot of fun!
Adults play an important background role – most especially through affirmation, but also in encouraging awareness of music as ministry.
The Symbol of Antioch:
This is a rock and a rose. Participants are challenged to decide if they will be like a rock which seems safe but is hard, cold and never changing, or a rose, which may seem riskier but which lives and can grow into a thing of beauty and gives joy to many.
The Weekly prayer meeting
This is the official follow-up to the Antioch weekend. It is usually held on a Sunday night between7.30 and 9.30 pm. and consists of a talk, share groups, shared prayer, music and fellowship. As on the weekend, it is run by the youth themselves, with adult support.
Attending a parish mid-week Mass together has become an established part of the com¬munity life. This is not an official part of the program, but has arisen spontaneously in Australia.
These are practical ways of building community also, and members are active in many areas such as parish liturgy, visiting the aged and sick, pro-life, etc.
Social activities are not formally part of the program, but they arise spontaneously and increase the sense of belonging to the Church community.
The purpose of the follow-up
The purpose is to help our youth live as effective members of the Body of Christ, and to grow in their personal relationship with the Lord and with one-another. The understanding is that this will be done through a small Christian community as an integral part of the parish. All members should feel free to come and go and yet always be welcomed back.