Teenagers travelled from far and wide across the Archdiocese of Melbourne on Friday 14 June to gather for adoration, worship, food and fellowship at the Catholic Leadership Centre and St John the Evangelist Church in East Melbourne.

The special Encounter+ evening—the latest in a series of opportunities for teenagers to come together in fellowship and encounter Jesus anew—featured popular Brisbane-based band Emmanuel Worship, who led participants in song as they prepared their hearts for adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. The evening was part of the band’s first Melbourne tour.

Liam Desic currently serves as the director of Emmanuel Worship, a ministry of the Emmanuel Community in Brisbane. He has been part of the band for nine years, as both a musician and songwriter.

Speaking of the important role that events like Encounter+ play in helping young people to grow in their love of God and to be formed in their faith, he pointed out that encounters with Jesus can happen in both small and powerful ways, ‘through the Eucharist, through moments of worship, through moments of incredible sharing between people where hearts are open and lives are rendered bare’.

He said, in his experience, encountering Christ is often just about ‘getting rid of the barriers, because Jesus is always wanting to encounter. Jesus has always wanted to be present to me. So, for me, it’s just stripping away all the distractions in my life and things that I’m saying “no” to, to say “yes” to him.’

Liam said he came to faith in his late teens through events like Encounter and believes there is great value in giving young people opportunities to be ‘in communion with people who are worshiping together. It’s like the Acts of the Apostles; it’s the upper room at Pentecost; it’s the story of our Church, of a people gathered to worship and give back to the God who created them, the God who loved them into life, the God who gives all good things. And so I love to be in that room, to facilitate that, to lead worship, to be a conduit, to be present and playing music and leading worship and allowing God to move.’

Jesus always faithful,
Jesus always able,
In you I am found, in your love.

—‘Found’ by Emmanuel Worship

The evening began in the Catholic Leadership Centre with ice-breaker games and a shared meal, before participants moved to the church for worship and adoration. During the evening, priests from across Melbourne also made themselves available to offer the sacrament of Reconciliation.

One participant said her favourite part of the evening was the opportunity to reconnect with her Catholic friends and people she had met along her journey, including at World Youth Day, ‘and also obviously the songs at adoration’.

Another said he particularly appreciated the opportunity to worship with people his own age and ‘to share that experience of God’s love. We all get to share it together. You know, Jesus is there in front of us while we’re worshipping and praising him.’

William, who shared his testimony during adoration, pointed out that when he hears the word encounter, the sacraments immediately come to mind. ‘I think of the sacraments as a meeting place or a gateway between heaven and earth,’ he said. ‘So tonight we came together in front of the Eucharist, the Blessed Sacrament, and what better way to view an encounter than being face to face with the real presence of our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament?’

He was encouraged to see ‘so many young people … so many steps ahead of where I was at their age. It gives me great hope to think that they might be able to avoid the pitfalls that I fell into; they might be able to fast-track their faith journey and really lead their own missions in the world as young Catholics.’

Encounter was launched in November 2023 to provide an opportunity particularly for returning World Youth Day pilgrims to reunite and continue to be nourished spiritually at home with their friends.

This year, the initiative extended to a series of evenings throughout the year, with parishes and local communities across the Archdiocese opening their doors to welcome all high school–aged youth.

Check out future dates in 2024 as the Encounter evenings continue to travel around the Archdiocese. Look out for further details as they become available.

Banner Image: Australian worship band Emmanuel Worship lead Encounter+ participants in song at St John the Evangelist Church, East Melbourne, as they prepare for the Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.