From 7 to 9 July 2023, the Australian Catholic Student Association (ACSA) hosted their annual conference at Queen’s College at the University of Melbourne. An opportunity for Catholic students from around the country to gather and hear formative talks on theology, philosophy and spirituality, the weekend also included a soccer match and was capped off with their pinnacle event, the Mannix Ball.

This year, the theme of the conference was ‘Be Not Afraid,’ in honour of the late Cardinal George Pell, who took those words as his episcopal motto.

The outgoing President of ACSA, Harvey Inamac, says the conference wanted to honour his legacy as someone deeply invested in the lives and formation of university students.

‘His vision for students was to form friendships with good Catholics and stand firm in the faith,’ Harvey explains, ‘to “be not afraid” of witnessing to the Gospel message on campus and defending the Magisterium and Tradition of the Church.’

Archbishop Peter A Comensoli celebrated the opening Mass for the event, and keynote speakers included Professor Tracey Rowland (a national patron of the Association), Monica Doumit from the Archdiocese of Sydney, Sr Mary Helen OP and Fr Francisco Javier Díaz SJ.

Professor Rowland spoke to the students about the legacy of Pope Benedict XVI. Ms Doumit spoke about a number of different cultural challenges facing the Church today, and how Catholics need to present a unified voice, rather than be distracted by infighting.

Sr Mary Helen OP gave a spiritual talk on faith as a theological virtue, and how to cultivate and develop this virtue. Fr Javier Díaz SJ, a practitioner of medicine, addressed issues of faith, science and medicine, especially in areas concerning fertility.

Harvey says the students who attended the conference enjoyed the experience and were greatly encouraged by the talks. The annual conference embodies their vision to provide a context in which young Catholic students can both enjoy fellowship and be formed in the faith.

Harvey is well aware of some of the tensions Catholic students can face on campus. As a student of biomedicine, when he first began ‘reverting’ to the Catholic faith, he experienced these tensions first-hand when various bioethical issues arose.

When he first learned about ACSA, he found the organisation’s vision appealing. ‘That aspect of uniting young Catholics from around the country really spoke to my heart,’ he says. ‘I thought that was a very special opportunity which I had never had before.’

Having served as President of the Association, he’s been able to see the positive fruit of its work in the lives of students and in his own.

‘I’ve always seen ACSA as a great vehicle for uniting Catholic students, to be a voice of faith and reason,’ he says.

Alongside the formative dimension, local events have provided great opportunities for fellowship, including dinners and hikes in the country.

Although he has now finished his studies, Harvey hopes the Association will continue to offer more opportunities, especially at the local state level, for students to gather in fellowship and experience deep formation in the Catholic faith.

All photos supplied by the Australian Catholic Student Association.