It was probably how St Paul and his companions felt when they started their first journey to proclaim the Gospel too – a mix of excitement, eagerness, perhaps anxiousness or joyful anticipation. Our journey was probably greatly similarto theirs, except I don’t think they had a white Yaris to take them along the pipeline to the goldfields. The five of us – four humans plus one guitar – piled into that five-seater car, said a little prayer to get us through and we were off.
7.5 hours isn’t very long when you have good company and good music. The journey is as big a part of the adventure as the destination. We got to Kalgoorlie late Thursday evening and settled into the beautiful accommodation that the parish priests had arranged for us. The little town quickly captivated us with its charm, proving to have more hustle and bustle than most of us expected. Our scrumptious first dinner proved that we had under-anticipated what this town had in store for us.
Friday started off with a visit to John Paul College – the local Catholic high school to promote that night’s youth rally. We met up with the lovely Mr Francis Chomba, the religious education coordinator who enthusiastically welcomed us. We spent the lunch period giving out flyers and talking to students. Our school visit ended with a visit to Mr Chomba’s Year 12 Religious Education class, where we spoke of our own faith journeys and heard the students’ journeys. St Augustine truly knew what he was saying when he said that “our hearts are restless until they rest in [God]”.
The youth rally that night started off with a sausage sizzle as the youth started to stream in. Matt led in praise and worship, followed by Vincent leading the ‘Jesus Chant’ with the youth showing off their awesome body rolls. Kim spoke of her own faith journey – the joys, the struggles, the pain and the growth in her talk entitled ‘Is Faith Relevant?’. Fr Mark then led the youth through to a time where the Sacrament of Reconciliation was made available. The night left us amazed at how God was working through these young people, but little did we know, that He was only just getting started.
Saturday was the youth leaders’ training day. The day was packed with talks by all four of us from Perth, covering topics such as ‘Why youth ministry’, ‘Discipleship’, ‘How to plan a youth event’, and ’10 tips to creating and sustaining youth community’. Interspersed with laughter, games and certainly food, the day eventually came to an end with a planning session with the Kalgoorlie youth and the formation of 5 youths in the core team with Fr Mark as their spiritual advisor.
After two full days of hard work, it was finally time for us to have a break. We started the day off with an extremely wonderful meal with Fr Mark and Mr Chomba before piling into Fr Mark’s ute to do some sightseeing. It wouldn’t be a trip to Kalgoorlie if we didn’t see how life was like mining Gold. Our first stop was Hannans North Tourist Mine which took us through the process of mining gold and the various equipment involved. Our second stop was a visit to the Super pit, where large machinery seemed to be nothing more than little toy diggers. The vastness and intricacies of the pit was incredible. If something so awe-inspiring was man-made, how much greater are the works of the Creator of the Universe?
The day ended with a Youth Mass organised by the youth of Kalgoorlie and a meal to follow in the beautiful All Hallows Church in Boulder. We visited the local fair with the youth afterwards and turned the bumper car attraction into a competitive bumper-fest.
On Monday we ran retreats for the Year 7 students at John Paul College. The students explored the question ‘Who am I?’, their identities amongst their peers but most importantly their identities as children of God. With this in mind, the next session led them to explore what they can do in and through Christ.
Our time in Kalgoorlie came to its appropriate closure with dinner with the Kalgoorlie youth in St Mary’s presbytery. We were graced with a scrumptious spread of Filipino food and it was nothing less than a feast fit for royalty.
It is difficult to express in words the graces that flowed in these five days. We left Perth prepared to bring the Gospel to the goldfields, but we did not anticipate that they would minister to us in a similar way. As Sr Chased, a Missionaries of Charity sister based in Kalgoorlie would say, that we don’t necessary remember the talks or sessions, but we would remember who we are to each other.
So on Tuesday, we set off for that 7.5-hour journey back to Perth, with our heart-tanks fuller than before. We came to the goldfields but did not find gold anywhere but in the hearts of these youths, their pastor and those who mentor them. Our time in Kalgoorlie will be remembered with great fondness, knowing that God will nourish the seeds He has tasked us to sow. We are no longer physically with them, but we remember them in our prayers.
Perhaps we can finally relate to a certain extent what St Paul meant when he wrote, ” I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.” (Phil 1:3-6)
By Kimberley Ngu (Youth Leader at Santa Clara Parish, Bentley)