This week the Young Marists team is in Lismore, NSW, to present the Marist Youth Leader programme for 100 students from across the Australian Province. The schools involved are St John's College - Lismore, Marist Sisters College - Woolwich, Holy Spirit College - Bellambi and Marist Regional College - Burnie, Tasmania. It is a full on, high energy week and is not possible without a great team. Our team is made up of university students from across New Zealand and Australia who work on the New Zealand MYL programme and in the schools each year. Here is a little about each of them:
JUDDY: I have been involved with the Young Marists since my first engagement in 2009 as a student of Hato Paora College, when I was fortunate enough to attend the Young Marist Neighbours program based in the Kaingaroa Forest village. This became a turning point for me as a student. A year later I was named Deputy Head Prefect, and this allowed me to continue onto Marist Youth Leader hosted by St Bedes in Christchurch. Both programs helped me immensely and to this day I still continue to hold onto those memories and experiences.
I was asked to join the Young Marist Team for 2012, where I was able to contribute to the first MYL program delivered at Hato Paora College. I have supported the Young Marist Team in numerous programs like Marist Youth Leader and Young Marist Neighbours, also retreats, leadership days and orientation courses where we have had full engagement with students and their schools.
All this has continued to be a huge motivatingfactor in the work we do today and the lessons and experiences we try to encourage the youth to participate in. ‘Young Marists’ has given me the inspiration to continue working with Māori Rangatahi, as there is a strong need for a positive difference.
NICK: My involvement in the Young Marists begun back in 2011, when I attended Young Marist Neighbours in Waitaruke. This was a big wake up call for me and I began to grasp the real meaning behind what it means to be Marist. From there, I was lucky enough to be asked back as a leader on the YMN program which presented a great opportunity to really understand working and living in the Marist way. Throughout these YMN programs, my passion to work with young people in the pursuit of leadership was also a big part of my work with this network. The Marist Youth Leader program has been a big part of the last 4 years and continues to drive my way of life. This drive has stemmed for the pure fact that this program doesn’t just teach the students, but it consistently educates me in understanding leadership on a deeply Marist level.
MATT: I began my Marist journey in 2012 through the Young Marist Neighbours programme, at Ranana, a small, isolated community up the Whanganui River. Seeing a community so rich in culture with an identity that is conscious of being fully alive, generous and humble, rather than the material-driven culture of a western world was something that I began to connect with.
After my year as Head Boy at Cullinane College, Whanganui, I began to learn more about what it is to be Marist, which has influenced the formation of my passion for Social Justice. For me, being involved with the Young Marists is an opportunity to explore and create a more just and fair society, through recognizing the privilege that I have in the world, and utilizing it for the benefit and betterment of others. I’m currently studying a Bachelor Arts in Human Geography, Politics, minoring in Maori at the University of Otago, with the possibility of secondary school teaching in mind. Through working in the Young Marist Team in programmes such as MYL and other retreat and orientation days I have come to realise that the work we do has a direct and influential impact on our youth, something very humbling and constantly challenging.
RACHEL: Kia Ora from across the waters. In 2009, I was absolutely blessed to participate in a cultural exchange to Daly River, a small Indigenous community in the Northern Territory. Although this was not intended as a religious trip, it was a deeply spiritual experience that cultivated a profound respect for the traditional custodians of this land. After participating in the Australian Marist Youth Leader program (2012) and joining the Young Marist team at the beginning of this year, it is easier to reflect on my Daly River experience as the beginning of my Marist journey.
This journey has led me throughout Aotearoa – retreats in Timaru, orientation programs at Hato Paora, and a Young Marist Neighbours program to Te Whaiti/Minginui. Each of these provide a medium through which the Marist way can be lived and communicated, but it is this last program that has defined my experience as a Young Marist and introduced me to a world of deep culture, strong tradition and infinite beauty that will keep me coming back across the seas.
ANGELA: I attended Marist Youth Leader in 2013 and then in 2014 I did my first MYL as a leader in Australia. This followed with MYL New Zealand in 2015 and the Young Marist Neighbors program in Kaingaroa Forest. Mike Jones, the principal of the primary school, is one of the most inspiring and humble men I have ever met. I mention this because he is the definition of what it means to live the Gospel in a Marist way. He has taught me the importance of love and the power it has. To love others, to love yourself and to love your God. These experiences and what I have learned as a member of the Marist network have hugely contributed to my life. I have obtained a deeper understanding of my faith and strengthened my drive for social justice. It is humbling to see the students we serve experience the same sort of benefits from these programmes as we did ourselves as students. The programmes help so many students, but they continue to help us as leaders too.
We are also joined by eight young Australians who were once students on the programme and are now keen to contribute to this experience for other young people in Australia. It is currently 10am and already too hot to move, but it is going to be a great week!