School chaplain Kathryn Petterson is one of five members of a recently formed Youth Conference in Darwin, where it’s been some time since the Society had a dedicated team of young members. When the new group travelled to Queensland in 2016 for the Society’s Rekindle the Flame event at Mount Tamborine, they found comfort in knowing they had the full support of a much bigger throng.
There is always the opportunity to be part of something bigger, to be more, and to experience the world through different perspectives. I joined the St Vincent de Paul Society after I attended the National Youth Event last year, ‘Rekindle the Flame.’ Having been a part of my high school conference, I was familiar with the Society but had never followed it up or considered membership. I had no idea how widespread the conference model is.
Rekindle the Flame saw five young people from Darwin board a plane to Brisbane to seek understanding of the Society, its works and its people. We knew we were going to be the founding members of our youth conference, but with only five of us, could we really make a difference?
We didn’t view the Vinnies world through rose-coloured glasses—we knew there would be struggles along our journey; but our national counterparts gave us the courage we needed. In this large gathering we discovered that we were well supported. Although we were the only youth conference in the Northern Territory, and were more than 2000kms from the nearest youth conference, we came to realise that we were not alone. This was one of the most powerful take-home messages we received that weekend, and it was without doubt the result of the unifying gathering of like-minded society folk who came together to share their experiences.
Large gatherings, I feel, are essential for the unity and connectedness of the Society. There is so much that we can learn from each other; and there is a richness of intergenerational experience within the Society that those of us from small communities would love to tap into. This is one of the things I am most looking forward to about the National Congress later in the year.
Mary MacKillop said: ‘Never see a need without doing something about it’.
We, the youth, have seen the need. We have the ideas and many of the necessary skills to do something about it. The St Vincent de Paul Society gives us the platform, the ability to make a difference, and it is evident through the multitude of programs run by youth conferences around Australia that we truly are doing something about this need.
Too often I hear the phrase, ‘The youth are our future’. They are forgetting that together we are also the present. It is my vision for the St Vincent de Paul Society to seek further unity among members of all ages and to action this by having members of a diversity of ages representing the Society in council meetings and on various committees.
We as a Society are always striving to do more and to be more. Our opportunity to be a part of something bigger is here, and I am blessed to be attending the congress. The congress will be my time to experience the world through different Vincentian perspectives; to question, to comment, to listen and to connect.