It is hard to say exactly how Oblate Youth Australia (OYA) and all its facets have come to be. It seems that from small seeds of inspiration and hope, the elements which comprise OYA have all simply fallen into place and OYA has grown, thanks to God and the courage and faith of many young people throughout Australia.
Fr Christian Fini omi, has worked since 2000 to establish OYA from its humble beginnings into what it is today– a flourishing community of faith which transcends Australia’s tyrannies of distance. Fr Christian’s devotion to Youth Ministry and his endeavours to establish youth communities and facilitate camps, were inspired by a momentous experience he had while he was in Italy working on a number of missions and youth camps. While on a train traveling from Calabria to Florence, Fr Christian reflected upon the successful Oblate Youth Ministry he had witnessed in Italy, and was inspired to establish a similar Oblate movement in Australia. On returning to Australia, Fr Christian’s ‘dream’ became reality.
In 2000, Fr Christian, then a student at St Mary’s Seminary in Victoria, was asked to work with the youth of St John Vianney’s Parish, Vic. He established a youth group which became known as ‘Youth Coming Together’. Fr Christian took a group of 12 young people from the parish away on a three day camp to Dromana, Vic.
The following year (2001), Fr Christian was ordained and sent to work in Mary Immaculate Parish in Eaglevale, NSW, where he established another youth group also known as ‘Youth Coming Together’. It was in his time at Eaglevale that Fr Christian gained particular support from Loretta Brinkman, a member of the parish, and Daniel Kelly, who was involved with the initial ‘Youth Coming Together’ group at St. John Vianney’s, Vic. Both Loretta and Daniel have been instrumental in helping Fr Christian develop Oblate Youth Australia, both in its infancy and throughout its growth, from localised and isolated youth communities to a united, national Community of faith. In 2001, together they decided to take on the challenge of organising a second ‘Youth Coming Together’ end-of-year camp. After some discussion with St John Vianney’s Parish, the idea of a joint camp in Sydney was suggested and the Victorians made a great leap of faith, courage and financial commitment to attend the ‘Youth Coming Together Camp’ in Gerroa NSW. This 2001 camp hosted 26 young people in total from the two parishes.
The success of this camp meant that the ‘Youth Coming Together Camp’ in 2002 increased to 40 young attendees, with a further two Oblate parishes joining the experience- Immaculate Conception in Sunshine, Vic, and St David’s in Tea Tree Gully, SA.
From the incredible experience of Camp 2002, two instrumental developments occurred which were to shape our future; the name ‘Oblate Youth Australia’ was adopted and a website www.oblateyouth.com was developed as a place of meeting, sharing and continuing the spirit and community of the camp. The website was officially launched on 1 March 2003. The site facilitated regular Thursday night online meetings and made it possible for the group to contend with the problem of distance between the Oblate Youth communities in different states and areas.
In 2003, the difficult and risky decision to change the camp’s location to the mountainous area of Fitzroy Falls, NSW, proved to be the right one. With 70 young people and 4 Oblates attending, the advantage of the new site was clear, as more than 20 people would have missed out if the camp had remained at Gerroa. With the move, also came a change in the name of the experience, to the National Oblate Youth Encounter.
During each Encounter, groups of the young attendees write daily summaries of the events, which are posted on the internet. This means that we have an entertaining and accurate account of each day on Encounter, along with numerous photos to help share our experience. Over the years, the summaries have provided a forum through which the participants’ families and others who support OYA through prayer, can journey with us in our Encounter experiences.
In October 2003 OYA developed its own server to host our website and support other youth groups and church groups, and the official OYA logo was adopted.
In 2004 the year began with the development of an Oblate Youth Australia Lenten program and a May Program to celebrate Oblate Week. The success of this program led to the continuation of these special occasions each year and the introduction of regular weekly material provided for local OYA communities called “Scripture and Tradition – Reflecting of the Foundations of our Faith”.
The fifth Encounter, (Fitzroy Falls December 2004), became truly national. There were 97 attendees, including representatives from each of the five states where the Oblates of Mary Immaculate work. As well as participants from Victoria, NSW and SA, attendees included 5 from Western Australia, 1 from Rosies QLD and 10 from Iona College QLD. The success of the Iona group, mainly comprised of Year 11 students, has lead to the inclusion of Year 11 students from other Oblate Colleges at subsequent camps, and in 2006, for the first time, students from all three Oblate Colleges.
By 2005, OYA communities were established in five states, with the newest additions being Fremantle WA and Iona College QLD.
On 1 February 2005, Fr Christian took up a new appointment at St Mary’s Seminary as National Co-ordinator of Youth Ministries and Vocations for the province. On 14 May, 46 people from 3 states gathered for a Pentecost Mass and a meal at the Seminary to mark the official launch of Oblate Youth Central and the adoption of the OYA Framework and Structures document. Oblate Youth Central, at St Mary’s Seminary, is a home for the young people who identify with the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. It is a place of refuge, a centre of learning, a place of prayer, a centre of discernment, and a centre of spirituality. The Framework and Structures document contains the Leadership Structure, outlining the specific roles of service in OYA, and OYA’s Policy and Procedures which give the community adequate protection and support to sustain its growth.
2005 was also marked by the World Youth Day Pilgrimage to Germany. The OYA group comprised 34 people, who journeyed together for more than 3 weeks on a pilgrimage which took in Italy, France and Germany, where WYD was held in Cologne. A highlight for the group was the international gathering of Oblate Youth in Hünfeld. Upon announcement that Sydney is to host WYD 2008, excitement only grew at the prospect of OYA taking part in the hosting of a similar pre-WYD oblate event on home soil.
Another significant undertaking for OYA in 2005 was the development of a youth group for the Resurectionist Parish at Good Shepherd in Brandon Park, Vic. It’s members are now affectionately known as OYA’s cousins.
In 2006, participants numbered 110 at the NOYE which was held in Glenaladale, Vic in mid January. In May, the Pentecost gathering launched the Oblate pre-WYD event for 2008, the International Oblate Youth Encounter (IOYE) to be held at Mazenod College, Vic. The launch Mass showcased the official logo and song for IOYE.
The 2007 Encounter at Glenaladale hosted 120, including 2 international guests– Oblate priests from the US. Over the Pentecost weekend in May, OYA continued its preparations for IOYE and its Membership document was launched. The Membership document outlines the various opportunities which OYA has made available to its members and supporters, to officially cement their commitment to OYA. At the Pentecost dinner, Loretta Brinkman and Daniel Kelly were inducted as OYA’s founding Life Members, in recognition of their long-standing and ongoing contributions to OYA.
Shortly after the Pentecost gathering in 2007 OYA’s new and improved website was launched. This website became the new home of oblate youth australia in the
Another of OYA’s activities is its involvement since 2005 in leading the Year 12 retreat for Mazenod College, WA and helping to run the Year 12 retreat for Mazenod College, Vic.
In 2008, after 3 years of intense preparation and planning, we hosted the IOYE at Mazenod Victoria. This event saw 800 Oblate Pilgrims from around the world, come together in one place to share in their Oblate charism. The event was an enormous success and a testament to the work put in by the volunteers from the 'Oblate Team'.
The group of 80 then traveled to Sydney to join over 500,000 other Catholic's for WYD.