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Elizabeth Fernandez (The Catholic Weekly/Giovanni Portelli Photography)

Pope Francis has described the Church as a “family of families” and through Elizabeth Fernandez he is about to make contact with one of Sydney’s faith-filled families. Source: The Catholic Weekly.

The Macquarie University student has the “really awesome” opportunity to meet the pontiff this month, after she was chosen to represent her Australian peers in an online forum where he will respond to issues important to young people. 

Cheering her on are parents Alex and Donna, and her eight siblings, who are looking forward to the welcome distraction after mum Donna’s recent cancer diagnosis. 

The meeting on June 20 is part of an initiative of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America and Loyola University Chicago, called Building Bridges, and is the fourth such forum since 2022. 

Building Bridges partnered with six universities in the Asia-Pacific region, including the Australian Catholic University, to support students on a month-long “synodal encounter” leading up to the online meeting. 

Ms Fernandez, 20, will represent young adults from Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea alongside Seamus Lohrey, a student from the University of Waikato in New Zealand. 

She will share the two main themes which emerged from her working group – a common experience of loneliness, and young Catholics’ desire for better formation opportunities. 

“As Catholics we can feel really outnumbered, especially on the secular campuses, and secular students equally can feel alienated from the Church,” Ms Fernandez said.

“Secondly, students said they wanted more support in formation so they could have better conversations [about their belief] at university.”

ACU’s Associate Director of Mission and Ministry, Mark Doyle, said the dialogue between the university students had been “robust, thoughtful, and insightful”.

“The students spoke extremely passionately about various complex issues, and it was clear that they are committed to making the world a better place,” he said. 

For more information or to view the livestream on June 20, visit the Building Bridges Initiative website.


Youth want faith formation, Aussie delegate to tell Pope Francis (By Marilyn Rodrigues, The Catholic Weekly)