Antioch celebrates 30 years in Australia
On 25th September, the Antioch Youth Movement celebrated its thirty years in Australia with a Mass of Thanksgiving and a Combined Communities Meeting. These were held at the parish where Antioch began in Australia, at St Mary and St Joseph’s, Maroubra Bay, Sydney.
From this parish it spread to neighbouring parishes and across Australia and even overseas – to New Zealand, Fiji, the Philippines, PNG and Hungary.
Many past Antiochers attended. The Principal Celebrant, Bishop Peter Comensoli, was on the first Antioch team in Wollongong many years ago. “Antioch didn’t make me a priest”, he commented, “but it made me the sort of priest I am”.
The original three youth who brought Antioch to Australia, Byron, Teresa and Claire Pirola spoke at the Meeting. Early Antioch musicians returned to combine with the current Antioch music ministry at the Mass.
Mark Rohanna and Vanessa Fallon were Antioch’s first music ministers. They led the 400-strong youth choir for the first Australian visit of Blessed John Paul II when he stunned his entourage by joining the singers and holding their hands aloft as they swayed to the music.
Some of the present youth were amazed to realize that their parish Sunday night prayer meetings have been running continuously for nearly three decades.
It was a time to remember special events such as the pioneering role of Antioch in sending Australia’s first pilgrimage group to World Youth Day, in Czestochowa, Poland, in 1991. Also recalled was the carrying of the WYD Cross over Sydney Harbour Bridge and through the streets of Sydney as early as 1992.
More recently, at WYD Madrid, Antioch was one of three Australian groups that served as ‘animators’ for one of the English-speaking catechesis sites. Members of the group spoke at the 30th Anniversary Meeting, developing further the WYD Madrid theme from Colossians 2:7.
Antioch’s first National Chaplain, Fr John Shallvey MSC, returned from his current parish of Bourke to attend along with ten other concelebrating priests.
In his homily, Bishop Comensoli commented that all things start small. However, when they have Christ at their centre, they can multiply and show the light of Christ to others. “The gift of Antioch that we celebrate today is the gift of that little light of Christ that is within each of us”, he said. “May it shine, shine, shine”.
Some of the original Antioch Members from 1981 with Bishop Peter Commensoli
The Church at St Mary & St Joseph’s Maroubra Bay was packed with past and present Antioch members. It was the parish that hosted the first Antioch weekend in Australia in 1981.
In its 30 Years in Australia, tens of thousands of Australian youth have attended an Antioch weekend.