Year of Youth 2018

A Tale of Two Rival Youth Groups | Year of Youth Blog

Last edited 8th August 2018

A Tale of Two Rival Youth Groups | Year of Youth Blog

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” - Mark 12:30-31

As Catholics, we do a great job of loving GOD, but we find the love for our neighbours a more challenging task. And who is my neighbour?

Like most people, loving my neighbours started off with the people who live in my street. My definition of who my neighbours are would change when I got involved in the Youth Ministry world.

My Youth Ministry journey started in 2000 at my local parish, St Anthony's Parish, Mangere Bridge, where we had a strong youth group called SAYG "St Anthony's Youth Group".

The neighbouring parish five minutes down the road was St Therese Parish, Mangere East, who had their own youth group called STAS "Six Thirty All-Stars", a group of talented musicians who would play at the 6pm Mass on Sunday nights.

One of my high school friends, Patrick, was a devout member of the STAS youth group, whereas I was very passionate about being in SAYG. By default, our neighbouring parishes were rivals.

Whether its neighbouring states, suburbs or countries, there is competition and rivalry. It wasn't any different for the youth groups of St Anthony's and St Therese, who decided to take their rivalry to the next level by creating… the "Church of Origin series".

The genesis of the Church of Origin series started in Maths class where Patrick and I would write our top 13 players from our youth groups on the math grid book, and where we would debate and argue who would be the better team.
The Church of Origin series was inspired by Rugby League's greatest ever competition, “The State of Origin series” which is played between New South Wales and Queensland. We decided that on the Labour Day holidays, we would play a game of league against each other.

The league games between the parishes exceeded all expectations and you can bet both teams played like it was the World Cup Final. At the end of some huge run-ups and hits, each team would still embrace each other, shake each other’s hands, and thank each person for a great game.
In 2004, the dynamics of both parishes would change our groups forever.

With the death of my parish priest and the priest at St Therese being assigned to another parish, it was decided that both parishes would share the same priests, which would also mean that some of the ministries needed to amalgamate. For us, the youth, it meant that both groups needed to combine.

After we combined, it was decided that we would have our Youth Nights at St Therese. Most of the St Anthony's leaders left, and only a few of us would stay on to make sure that our youth group wouldn’t fade into obscurity.
I can recall having mixed feelings towards joining the combined youth group. On one hand, if I accepted the offer to join the group, my St Anthony’s brethren would see this as a betrayal knowing that the group would be based at St Therese. On the other hand, if I declined the offer, I would lose my faith in the process because, at the time, youth group was my main source of faith. After weighing up the options I decided to take a leap of faith by joining the newly amalgamated youth group.

It was a challenge at first, combining two different types of ministry styles. St Anthony's specialised in prayer experiences and St Therese specialised in facilitating icebreakers and games. But we were fortunate to be mentored by the Franciscan brothers, who prepared us for our upcoming ministry.

In 2005, we launched MCY (Mangere Catholic Youth), which was a mixture of leaders from St Anthony's and St Therese. In hindsight, reflecting on the experience, amalgamating made our groups stronger and we complemented each other - with the icebreaker kings from St Therese and the prayer team from the St Anthony's Youth Group. Our combined efforts wasn’t a mere coincidence. It was GOD’s plan all along to bring us together, so we would be able to serve our young people for the greater good for His church.

Fourteen years later, the parishioners I saw as rivals and neighbours are more like family. Next year, my journey will come full circle as I’m getting married at my parish where my ministry started in St Anthony's, with the St Therese boys leading the choir, and with my old rival, Patrick, being in my wedding line.

Together we are stronger. ‘Love your neighbour as I have loved you’.

Rival Youth Leaders from St Anthony's and St Therese reuniting

Here are some practical tips that will help you to know more about the neighbouring parish in your area:

1. Make a connection

We belong to the Catholic Church, which means the “universal” church. Sometimes we’re consumed in our parishes that we forget that there are others out there.
All relationships begin with making the first move, Make contact with someone from your neighbouring parish, and say hello and see where it will take you.

2. Learn from each other

One of the best advantages of having a relationship with the neighbouring parish is that you are able to see church practices and Youth Ministry from a different angle.
Visiting the neighbouring Youth Group helped me to develop new resources for my own ministry, as well being able to share my youth ministry journey with likeminded leaders who understand the hustle of being a Youth Minister.

STAS boys chant during a sports competition

3. Facilitate combined events.

Once the relationship has been established, the fun events that you can collaborate on are endless. Ideas can be:

? Creating a ‘Church of Origin’ series (or any sports competition event)
? Shared fundraisers e.g. movie nights, trivia nights
? Combined Mass and adoration events
? Combined Youth sessions.


Isn’t it frustrating to know that there’s a church five minutes away from you and you don’t know anyone from the parish. Make the leap and follow Christ’s example of loving your neighbours, whether it's the person that lives next door or the parish that’s a few blocks from you.

Richie has been in Youth Ministry for 18 years and he is the founder of the Youth Ministry Game Changers movement. He believes in Youth Ministry because it has the ability to transform peoples lives. His friends know him best for his loyalty to the countries of Samoa and New Zealand.

Viewed (671)    Commented (2)

Melania Lui
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Melania Lui wrote at 10:31pm on August 12th 2018
Thank you Richie Leilua for your inspirational articles and especially being part of the NZ Catholic church, I belong to the Wellington Archdiocese and we too faced a similar fate, shortage of priests so change came with either parishes merging together and so on. It is a very difficult transition but it is also a rewarding one and with the guidance of the Holy Spirit many will get there in the end.Your story of faith help many to face Challenges head on, break down the barriers and come out shining for Christ! Tumau pea le faamanuiaga a le Atua ia te Oe ma autalavou Katoliko o Mangere, soifua ma ia manuia - Melania
Olivia Fernandes
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Olivia Fernandes wrote at 3:41am on August 13th 2018
Thank you for sharing your experience. God bless you in your ministry.