Bishop Joseph Grech: a youth ministry tribute
It was with immense sadness that the youth ministry community of Australia learned of the passing of Bishop Joseph Grech. For many it was a surprise that a man so full of passion and life was so sick and was called to God so soon.
Bishop Joseph Grech
Bishop Joe was committed not only to sharing the message of Jesus Christ, but to being a living example of Christ in the world today. His exuberance and love for Jesus shone through in all he was doing, whether preaching to thousands of young people at World Youth Day (WYD) 2008, or listening and reflecting upon the realities of life with young people he met.
Bishop Grech was the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference's (ACBC) Delegate for Youth for over four years. Building upon the tremendous graces of WYD 2008, Bishop Joe established the Australian Catholic Youth Council (a first for the ACBC) and set about the provision of support and resources for youth ministry into the future.
Key national initiatives facilitated by Bishop Joe included the development of the National Vision Statement for Catholic Youth Ministry in Australia, Anointed and Sent; The 2008 National Youth Leaders Gathering, the largest gathering of catholic youth ministers in Australia at the time, and subsequently the Australian Catholic Youth Ministry Convention which was held recently in Melbourne; and the employment of the first National Youth Ministry Projects Officer with the ACBC to facilitate key initiatives.
Many other fruits of Bishop Joe's work are yet to be realized. He was passionate about providing a regular gathering and listening opportunity for young people nationally, and this is something which is being considered for the future.
As with everything he did, Bishop Joe also lived the experience of ministry with young people. He would regularly record and place pastoral messages on YouTube and Facebook to young people so that they were more accessible. Bishop Joe even recorded a song with Fr Robert Galea, a prominent contemporary Catholic musician, about one of his messages for young people, 'God doesn't make rubbish'.
This contemporary approach to ministry was also reflected in the get well messages and condolences that have been shared via Bishop Joe's 3000-strong facebook friend network over the past few days.
Bishops Joe's power in engaging with young people came from his combination of youthful exuberance and elder wisdom. Regular appearances at youth rallies and conferences around the country helped Bishop Joe to become one the most engaging and powerful speakers with young people in Australia. This of course was highlighted during WYD 08 at 'Receive the Power Live' where Bishop Joe addressed over 100,000 youth, breaking open the WYD theme, 'You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses'.
There are multitudes of encounters, events and experiences with Bishop Joe that live in the hearts of young people and those who minister with young people in Australia, too many to list. His impact on young people has changed the landscape of youth ministry in Australia for ever.
If there is one thing that the youth ministry community of Australia should know is that Bishop Joe was as committed to youth ministry as he was to other pastoral ministries; the Diocese of Sandhurst have now lost a shepherd; the migrant and refugee community have lost one of their greatest advocates; the Charismatic Renewal movement around the world have lost one of their great preachers and leaders; and the Church in Malta and the Universal Church has lost a great son.
Bishop Joseph Grech will be deeply missed, but will continue to inspire for years to come.
Senior Youth Ministry Projects Officer
Bishops Commission for Pastoral Life, Australian Catholic Bishops Conference
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