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Tuesday, June 19, 2018

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The Journey is the Reward - Marc Johnson

As the curtain falls on Easter weekend 2013 I can’t help but sit back in awe and contemplation of the events that have just taken place. Over Easter the basis of our faith is shared, stripped back and laid bare for all to see. We go through emotions of great joy on Palm Sunday to the amazement of the gift of the Eucharist at the Last Supper. From such a high we are quickly forced to reflect on the death of Jesus on the cross on Good Friday. We then have a day of anticipation in between where uncertainty, sadness and anticipation are all very present. This all culminates of course on Easter Sunday when we celebrate the resurrection of our Saviour, the reason for the season.

Sitting back thinking about the highs and lows of the Easter tridium I cannot help but draw parallels to my journey as a part of OYA. Back in 1999 when I began my OYA journey I was a shy, quiet 17 year old kid who didn’t have many friends, went to church out of obligation, struggled with understanding what to believe and who to believe. Fast forward 13 years and I am now a 30 year old man who knows what’s right and wrong, someone who can lead people rather than just be led, someone who had seen enough of the world to realise how lucky we are in Australia and someone who knows the value of the many friendships that have formed over the years.   Most importantly I now own my faith; it’s something I know choose rather than it be an obligation.

Trying to put the journey from 1999 to present day into words is nigh impossible. I could write about anyone of the 13 National Oblate Youth Encounters i've been lucky enough to be on, WYD Germany, Sydney or <st1:country-region w:st="on">Spain, re-encounters, youth masses, weekly meetings, winter sleep outs, fundraisers or outreach programs. Instead I will write about a few pivotal moments of my journey.</st1:country-region>

Gerroa camp 2001, reconciliation night, the night I took hold of my faith and made it my own.   Reco has always been a highlight of the NOYE right from the very first encounter. It has always been given plenty of time to young people just to “be” with God. A huge emphasis has always been placed on making young people feel comfortable about being forgiven for whatever they have done, no matter what.  I’m not sure whether it was the gorgeous setting we were in, the quiet reflective music or a combination of both, but after receiving the sacrament of reconciliation that night I felt free. I felt free of any shackles that were holding me down, free of any worry.  I sat for what felt like hours starring and weeping at the foot of our Oblate cross. I thought ‘how much must our God love us if he allowed his only Son to spread his arms on the cross for our sins’. Ever since that day, if I ever have doubts or worries I remember that night and I’m filled with a great deal of peace.

Besides all of the amazing people I have met throughout my OYA journey, the greatest gift I have received was the chance to become a leader. I truly believe that to be a great leader all it takes to begin with is for someone else to have faith in you. The second stage of this is to step up and not let that person down. I have been blessed to have been given the opportunity to be a leader in many capacities whether it be SJV youth group leader, camp leader, International Oblate youth Encounter leader, National Co-ordinator or a pilgrimage leader, I have endeavoured to always do it to the best of my ability.  I smile when I see those ads on TV for the Army, they portray that if you join you will be a leader of the future.  In much the same way I feel I have been given those same opportunities through OYA. Sure I have stuffed up along the way, made bad errors of judgement and let people down no doubt and for this I am truly sorry. But I hope and pray that my flaws over the years have been far outweighed by the passion and love I have for OYA.

As I said earlier sometimes all it takes is someone to believe in you and it would be remiss of me not to thank that special someone in this article. I began this journey with Fr Fini back in 1999 when youth group was called youth coming together.  I have been to every camp and wyd trip along the way with Fini.  I have watched NOYE transform into the well oiled machine they are today with Fini.  I have helped write policies and procedures, the oya creed, added value to Fini’s book (through my face in it).  Pretty much everything that I have done, achieved and love about OYA is because of Fini. He has defended me, laughed with me and cried with me, had some awesome moments with me and some tough moments with me. Most of all, I am the person I am today and have such a love for OYA, because he believed in me. So most importantly a huge thanks to Fini, for your vision, your faith but most importantly your friendship.

So as I fight back tears knowing that re-encounter will be my last as a National Co-ordinator, I rejoice in the Good news of Easter that this is not the end, it is only the beginning. I thank God for Oblate Youth Australia for giving me the opportunity to become a confident 30 year old man surrounded by people I love, confident and proud of my faith and ready to face whatever challenges life throws at me.  I hope and pray that with Gods help I can continue to be a witness to my faith and that “through the eyes of Christ I see the world”.

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