03 Feb 2024
Inspired by time with Pope Francis
Adelaide Catholic youth leader Maddy Forde recently had the privilege of meeting Pope Francis and presenting him with a gift from Catholic Education South Australia.
Maddy Forde, CESA employee and Oceania Representative in the Vatican’s Youth Advisory Body, presented the Pope with a cross designed by women from Santa Teresa Spirituality Centre in Ltyentye Apurte, Northern Territory.
In 2021 Maddy was invited by the Vatican’s Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life to be part of a group of 20 young people whose purpose is to carry the voices and stories of young people across the world to various departments within the Vatican to ensure the realities of young people are heard.
Representatives from Australia, Slovenia, Lebanon, Portugal, France, Italy, Indonesia, Japan, Oceania, Puerto Rico, El Salvador, Chile, Brazil, Canada, USA, Guinea, South Africa and Uganda met online at least once a month to discuss their passions and commitment to their faith.
The inaugural International Youth Advisory Body (IYAB) met in Rome in November to reflect on the past four years of service since the Synod of Youth.
Maddy said the group’s meeting with Pope Francis was a “profoundly human moment, simple and gentle”.
“He greeted everyone individually, and in that small moment all I remember is the hazel colour of his eyes, the intentional meeting of my gaze, and the warmth of his hand,” she said. “Pope Francis has been unwell, and as he was speaking to us, his passion and care for
young people was so abundantly evident as he gasped for breath in between each sentence.
“A great honour for me has been to share the story of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in this global space, to teach some Kaurna language, to share artwork and stories, and to speak Pitjantjatjara in the Vatican to Pope Francis.”
The IYAB wrote a message to Pope Francis expressing “gratitude for the great love you show to the youth, and for believing that young people are capable of being protagonists and agents of change in our society.
“Your message has inspired many young people, even non-believers, to have hope for the future…”
In response, Pope Francis said he hoped the group’s experience would continue to cultivate a “sense of the Church and, above all, a love for the Church”.
“I would like you to feel that the Church is not only a family, but is your family,” he said.
“I beg your pardon if, during this time that you have been serving as advisors, you may have felt at times that the ‘new wine’ you carry in your hearts did not always find ‘new wineskins’ capable of receiving it (cf. Lk 5:38).
“The Church needs your momentum, your intuitions, your faith…and when you arrive where we have not yet reached, have the patience to wait for us.”
Maddy said her aim was to echo this message, encouraging “all young hearts to be authentic and courageous”.
SPECIAL MOMENT: Pope Francis greets Maddy Forde during her recent visit to Rome with the Vatican’s Youth Advisory Body.