There is a sense of excitement and anticipation for 21-year-old Kyle Correya as he settles back into work and parish life in Melbourne following his recent trip to Rome. Kyle was the official youth representative for Australia at the International Congress on Youth Ministry hosted by the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life from 19 to 28 May in Ciampino, outside Rome. Gathering more than 300 young people from across the world, the congress explored themes drawn from Christus vivit, a document setting out Pope Francis’ approach to young people, faith and vocations.

Kyle is passionate about using his gifts of playing music and song-writing to awaken the hearts of young people and to draw them closer to Jesus. He has led the youth band and been involved in youth ministry at his parish of St Peter’s Epping for the past five years, and is excited to apply his new knowledge to his music ministry.

‘There were people from more than 100 countries, which was eye-opening, as the congress provided the opportunity to meet and engage with many different people,’ he says. ‘Hearing their experiences in youth ministry and leadership, I was able to learn, while making new friends.

‘I made many friends at this congress—people from Canada, Germany, Belgium, Spain, Portugal. Hearing their stories gave me perspective on youth ministry.’

It was truly astonishing to listen to the stories that were shared.

Each day, Kyle explains, there were multiple keynote speakers from different countries. Following the talks, there were small-group discussions, where participants could reflect on the presentations and share stories. Kyle says he was in a group with a girl from the Ukraine and a priest from Palestine.

‘It was truly astonishing to listen to the stories that were shared,’ he says, ‘especially the priest from Palestine, who said he had to go through the war zone just to celebrate Mass. It was very touching to hear that people will literally die just to go to Mass.

‘That was very life-changing for me—hearing people’s stories in the small groups and how they connected to the keynote speakers.’

There was Mass every day, and lots of conversation over meals. Kyle says he felt ‘blessed’ to be asked to play guitar each day during Mass and to have the opportunity to play for Eucharistic adoration with other musicians.

Kyle explains that he had been in the presence of Pope Francis last year while on pilgrimage for World Youth Day. (He was part of a small group of pilgrims from the Archdiocese of Melbourne who were invited to meet the Holy Father.) This year, he was able to able to meet and speak with Pope Francis personally during the congress.

‘When I met him, I said, “Hi Holy Father, I’m from Australia,” and he said, “Oh, so far away!” I replied, “Yes, I know!” Then I asked him to keep my music ministry in his prayers, and he said, “Of course.” He asked that I keep him and his ministry in my prayers, then gave me a blessing. That was a once-in-a-lifetime experience!’

In Rome, while praying about my ministry, the catchphrase ‘Awakening Young Hearts’ spoke to me most. That is the driving force for my ministry.

Kyle attended the congress with two others from Australia: Fr Chris Ryan, from the Missionaries of God’s Love, who gave a presentation on synodality, and Malcolm Hart, Director of the National Centre for Evangelisation, who attended the congress on behalf of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference. Kyle says he was grateful to learn from both Fr Ryan and Malcolm about how to speak to young people and how to use his musical gifts more broadly.

‘We spoke about using the gift of music to reach the hearts of young people,’ says Kyle. ‘A lot of people say that music is the gateway to people’s hearts.’ Kyle will take this advice on board as he establishes his music ministry—Awaken Ministry.

‘In Rome, while praying about my ministry, the catchphrase “Awakening Young Hearts” spoke to me most. That is the driving force for my ministry.

‘For now, my aim is to launch Awaken Ministry and to reach out to youth and young adults by hosting events across Australia, such as worship nights, where I will speak on evangelisation and using your gifts. Someday, I aspire to share this message globally through my ministry.’

Banner image: Kyle meets with Pope Francis during the International Congress on Youth Ministry in Rome (Photo courtesy of Kyle Correya.)