On Sunday 26 November, young people gathered in different ways to mark the diocesan celebration of World Youth Day, which since 2021 has coincided with the solemnity of Christ the King.

In his message for World Youth Day, Pope Francis recalled the ‘light and joy’ of the recent World Youth Day gathering in Lisbon, Portugal, in which 600 young Melbournians participated in August. Pope Francis called on young people to ‘not be afraid to share with others the hope and joy of the risen Christ!’

He also encouraged them to ‘nurture the spark that has been kindled in you, but at the same time share it. You will come to realize that it grows by being given away! We cannot keep our Christian hope to ourselves, like a warm feeling, because it is meant for everyone.’

At St Patrick’s Cathedral, university graduates joined Archbishop Peter A Comensoli and tertiary chaplains to celebrate the inaugural Valedictory Mass, marking the successful completion of their undergraduate or graduate degrees. The students had undertaken their studies at a number of universities, including the University of Melbourne, RMIT and the Australian Catholic University.

Archbishop Comensoli recalled in his homily Pope Francis’ reflections at World Youth Day in Lisbon: ‘Both in the Pope’s words, and in those of the Prophet Ezekiel, it is the image of God’s tender closeness to us that stands out … God is with us, he accompanies us.’

‘To know, then,’ he continued, ‘that God is with us is to have confidence that Jesus carries us in the walk that he made for us, the journey of his life.’

At the end of Mass, Archbishop Comensoli blessed the graduates with the following prayer:

Eternal God, in you we live and move and have our being. In your will we find our purpose and in your wisdom we find our joy. Bless these graduates, who have completed their course of study and now embark on a new chapter of their lives. Strengthen their faith in you and in the talents you have given them that they may courageously follow your spirit and do your will wherever they go. When doubt and confusion about their purpose surround them, light their way and give them peace in your plan for them. When new doors and opportunities open before them, lead them to make good choices on behalf of those most in need. Let them use the gifts they have received in their studies that they may become a source of inspiration and blessing for the world. And when each day is ended, give them delight in knowing that the good work you have begun in them shall come to completion in you through Christ Our Lord. Amen.

Certificates of blessing were distributed and a luncheon was held for graduates and their families.

Later that evening, secondary school students gathered at the Catholic Leadership Centre for an ‘Encounter’ evening of prayer, food, games and fellowship.

Many of these youth were pilgrims at World Youth Day in Lisbon. Following Pope Francis’ call to share their encounter with Christ with others, they were encouraged to invite friends to attend this night.

The atmosphere was joyful as the evening began in prayer, music and testimony. Participants delved into what friendship with Jesus meant, before engaging in a time of prayer and adoration, where they renewed their friendship with Jesus.

At the end of the night, they were challenged to find friends who can support them in their faith journey through prayer and encouragement, and were invited to further regional Encounter evenings in the new year.

Both the Valedictory Mass and the Encounter event were organised by Proclaim: The Office for Mission Renewal, an agency of the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne.