Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese REPORT:
Devett O'Brien elected Secretary General of IYCS
Of the young Australians who are actively engaged in their faith this still represents only a fraction of those Catholic youth leader Devett O'Brien wishes to reach.
"Approximately two percent of young people talk openly about their faith and their commitment to Christ, and are active in their faith. But for me, the real question and challenge is how do we reach the other 98 percent?" asks the Brisbane-born law student.
The 25-year-old from Griffiths University, has just been elected Secretary General of the International Young Christian Students (IYCS) movement, and in his new position one of his ambitions is to find ways to reach the world's young people. To encourage them to embrace Christ and his teachings, and for those who grew up Catholic, to bring them back to the Church.
Devett, who is studying for a double degree in economics and law, will take up his new position at the end of the Spring Semester in October this year, and will spend the next four years based in Paris. He will oversee and help coordinate YCS activities worldwide as well as represent students at the United Nations and the Pontifical Council for the Laity in Rome.
"It will be exciting to show as many people as possible that our God and the Church has something real and relevant to say about the injustices and struggles of young people around the world, and YCS offers an inspiring alternative image of Christian life," he says and adds this image begins from the reality of each individual's life whether this is in a classroom in Sydney, in the midst of a civil war on the Ivory Coast or in the uncertainty of life in the Middle East.
From the time he was in Year 8, Devett has been an enthusiastic member of YCS, so much so that after his first YCS meeting at Brisbane's St Thomas' Parish, Camp Hill, he and a friend immediately set about establishing their own YCS at his family's nearby parish of St Therese.
He then went on to become the National Coordinator for the Australian movement, working in dioceses across the country and founding youth groups and building what he called "a new generation of apostles."
Using the "See, Judge and Act" system of self-examination developed by the YCS which calls on young people to be Christian witnesses and proclaim the Gospel, Devett worked closely with the late much-loved, Bishop Joe Grech, the former Bishop of Sandhurst and was instrumental in the formation of the Australian Catholic Youth Council in 2007.
"The Church should have a 'young heart' because Jesus lived and died young," he says, but is quick to point out having a "young heart" encompasses those of all ages. "It means having a youthful spirit," he explains and cites Pope John Paul II's address when at World Youth Day in Rome who spoke of the "young heart" of the Church as the "centre of the Church."
He believes this means communicating in a contemporary real way that resonates with people today. But while he agrees that modern technology and the new media is playing an increasingly larger role, he warns as a tool and way to reach young people, not to focus too much on the technology, but rather on the message.
"Having a conversation that resonates with young people, means we have to engage them and make what we are saying relevant to their lives. If we are not able to do that it doesn't matter whether our message is in morse code or on Facebook. It's not going to connect."
Devett admits is very much looking forward to this new challenge and says under his stewardship, IYCS will "fight poverty and build peace."
"I am very excited," he says of his new appointment but adds that he is also a little scared. "It is also a wonderful opportunity and I am keen to strengthen the YCS movement in other countries, which is something I think we have done quite well here in Australia," he says.