The ACSA Conference

The ACSA Conference

News has filtered back that last week’s ACSA conference was the best in living memory.

Fr Gregory Jordan SJ, long-time national chaplain, says of the conference, “One could argue that overall the Melbourne 2012 ACSA conference was the best yet. I believe it is of the greatest significance for the Church in Australia.”

Br Barry Coldrey e-mailed me a detailed report of the conference this morning. When I say detailed, I’m not kidding. It’s long, so here’s an abridged version:

The Australian Catholic Students Association (ACSA) is appointed officially by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference to represent Catholic tertiary students and young Alumni. Its Annual Conference is a highlight of the university year for dedicated, practising, Catholic tertiary students.

At Queens College, University of Melbourne, 6-8 July, 190 delegates from every state in Australia registered for the recent conference. The theme was ‘Defending Human Dignity.’

In addition to almost 200 registrations, a further 30 young men and women attended the MacKillop Ball on the Saturday evening, where Leader of the Federal Opposition, Tony Abbott put in a cameo appearance.

ACSA 2012 was an outstanding success in spite of the bitter winter weather. The delegates jelled with each other and the X Factor or ‘Wow Factor’ operated as the Conference took off. The peak occurred Saturday afternoon with the State of Origin Rugby Challenge, followed by the full evening programme of  Conference Dinner, Mannix Oration and MacKillop Ball. Meanwhile, the State of Origin was won by the ‘All Stars’, a combined Queensland and New South Wales team!

It’s nice that NSW can win something. With Queensland’s help of course. (Snap!)

The toxic secular agenda of the cultural majority meant nothing to these young men and women, intensely Catholic, bursting with enthusiasm and gifted with wide-ranging talents from across the university, business and professional worlds.

In fact, an ACSA Conference has aspects of a spiritual retreat in addition to the serious lectures, robust discussion and professional socialising of the tertiary educated. On Friday evening Fr. David Nugent of the Missionaries of the Most Holy Eucharist led a Holy Hour before the Blessed Sacrament. All-night Adoration concluded Saturday morning.

The speakers at ACSA, 2012, included Professor Tracey Rowland, Hon Kevin Andrews, M.P, Fr Aidan Nichols, O.P, Dr Matt Tan, and Dr David van Gend. The Mannix Orator was journalist Christopher Pearson of The Australian.

On Sunday morning, after a massive night of celebrations, ACSA held its Annual General Meeting. After an introduction by the President, Justin Gill, Treasurer, Richard Lyons, reported (in some detail) that ACSA is in a ‘healthy financial situation’. In that happy frame of mind, the meeting granted life membership to two of its brilliant past presidents, Dr Xavier O’Kane, Intensive Care Unit, Austin Hospital, and his twin brother Camillus, who has degrees in Law and Town Planning and is currently doing his Articles at a firm in Echuca, fairly close to the family property near Yarrawonga.

The elections for the ACSA Executive proceeded with Camillus as Returning Officer. After a hard-fought election, Richard Lyons, of the University of Melbourne, was declared President. Richard is an Old Boy of St Kevin’s College and in addition to his university studies (Arts: Politics & History), has a part-time job with the Institute of Public Affairs.

In due course, Nick Smith (ND Syd) was elected Vice-President, David Chilnicean (Campion), Secretary; Tom Ryan (QUT), Treasurer; Kieran Walton (USyd), Media; Lucy Righetti (ACU Melb), Publications; and Michelle Mannering (VU), IT.

In addition to a number of distinguished speakers, ACSA was blessed by the presence of four Dominican Sisters from Our Lady’s Convent, Ganmain (Wagga Diocese), and two Sisters from the Dominican Nuns of Nashville, Tennessee (Sydney Convent). Of course, the venerable ACSA Chaplain, the widely renowned Fr Greg Jordan, S.J. was present and was principal celebrant at the final Mass at the Seminary Church of the Sacred Heart, at Corpus Christi College, Carlton.

A youthful slogan for ACSA attendees might be summed up by Tom Hill, who was College Captain at Nowra Christian College in his final year and has now joined his older brother, Matt, as an undergraduate at Notre Dame University (Sydney Campus). Tom said “We pray hard, we play hard and we party hard.” With enthusiasm such as this, no wonder ACSA 2012 was a fine success.

Catholic students conference

Catholic students conference

The national conference of the Australian Catholic Students Association starts this Friday, and it’s not too late to register.

The keynote speaker at this year’s conference is Fr Aidan Nichols OP, a world-class theologian and author whose Shape of Catholic Theology I recommend as the introduction to theology for beginners.

Other speakers include Kevin Andrews, a Catholic MP who introduced the private members’ bill which rescinded the Northern Territory’s euthanasia legislation. He will speak on the defence of human dignity in the political and cultural realms.

Also not to be missed is Prof Tracey Rowland, who has earned herself new notoriety in the current edition of The Tablet. She will speak on the theology of culture, which is at the heart of her critique of post-conciliar reforms.

I was heavily involved with ACSA in my university days, though back then it was called the International Movement of Catholics Students Australia (IMCSA). I got involved at a low ebb in the organisation’s history, and the IMCSA was in very real danger of shutting down. We built it up again by focusing on the spiritual formation of members and organising conferences intended to revive Catholic intellectual life in Australian universities.

Ten years later, those early successes have been consolidated, allowing ACSA to broaden its appeal. A gala ball and a State of Origin footy rugby match (wouldn’t have happened in my day!!) are now permanent fixtures in the conference agenda.

I would highly recommend the conference to anyone at university, whether they’re Catholic or not. ACSA Conferences aren’t tent revival meetings — they’re a place to challenge ideas and be challenged by ideas; a place to meet other students who are serious about changing the world; and a place to have fun. (Foreign football codes notwithstanding.)

If you know anyone who is at university, send them this link. If they end up going, they’ll probably thank you for it!