Halfway through the Australian Catholic Youth Festival in Adelaide, and I must say, it is outstanding.

I travelled with a group of seven young Catholics from my parishes, and they are enjoying themselves immensely. More than once I have heard them remark how impressive it is – and surprising – to see so many people their own age, who know their faith and love God.

Nearly 4,000 people are attending the festival; most of my pilgrims come from towns with populations in the hundreds. So they’ve never seen so many Catholics in one place before, much less young Catholics.

I remember moving to Melbourne at age 18, and the shock of encountering my peers at church. Not only were they coming to Mass, they were going to confession, and spending time in Eucharist adoration, and constantly deepening their faith. This had a huge impact on my own faith, and I can see seomething similar occurring in my pilgrims.

The formation has been excellent. The plenary sessions, which everyone attends, are a fast-paced blend of music, prayer, and formation, where the bishops feature heavily. Today every participant found rosary beads on their seat, and Fr Rob taught them to the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. (His musical version is the best.)

My group has gone to workshops with international speakers like Steve Angrisano and Jason Evert, who have blown them away with their knowledge, and humour, and passion, and empathy. But it’s a local act who has attracted the greatest praise from my pilgrims. Sr Hilda Scott OSB is a captivating story-teller and brimming with wisdom, but it’s her evident love of God which makes her one of the most powerful teachers I’ve ever seen. Remarkable.

But the heart and soul of the festival is here:

The Eucharistic Adoration chapel

The Eucharistic Adoration chapel

Confessionals in the adjoining room

The adjoining Reconciliation chapel

My good friend Fr Michael Romeo is co-ordinating 17 hours of Eucharistic adoration and sacramental confession. It’s here, in these two spaces, that I hope and pray ACYF participants deepen their confidence in Jesus, and their love for him.

Over the past day and a half, I’ve answered many questions, and shared many conversations, and witnessed many acts of Providence which have encouraged my pilgrims and many others to encounter the Lord in the sacraments.

Please keep everyone at the ACYF, and especially its participants, in your prayers.