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Embrace the Grace 2018 participants journey together with youthful fervour


Anna and Carl enjoy themselves at the 2018 Embrace the Grace dinner-dance on 8 December. Photo: Matt Lim Photography.

By Matthew Lau

Two young people of God share their experience of what was an invigorating 2018 Embrace the Grace (ETG) youth conference.

Anna Depiazzi and Carl Alvares joined more than 100 young Catholics in Australia’s only monastic town of New Norcia for the most recent ETG from 5 to 9 December.


Anna Depiazzi is a second-year Murdoch University student, studying a double major in Animal Health and Animal Science. Photo: Matthew Lau.

This was Anna’s second ETG faith exploration – her first back in 2016 was the pinnacle of her faith journey at the time, she said.

The 18-year-old Murdoch University student had no hesitation when it came to registering again for 2018, where she was able to meet more Catholics around her age.

“I found the feeling and atmosphere more engaging and more comfortable this time around. Everyone seemed to get along well; there was a lot of mixing between everyone, with no-one forming any cliques as such,” Anna recalled.

The Bayswater parishioner aspires to return for the next ETG, scheduled for 2020, as a share group leader.

“The talks we heard were always enlightening and strengthening us, offering food for thought on things that we may have not thought about in the past.

“I think ETG has definitely helped me find a new way of talking to God with the Sacrament of Penance and Adoration.”

Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament on 7 December allowed ETG attendees to examine their relationship with God.

“It was a very emotional time, to sit in silence and be with God in His presence is not something I always get the opportunity to do,” Anna added.

“To have the opportunity to do that was definitely a highlight of this conference.”

Anna believes she gained the most out of her ETG journeys by “not being afraid or apprehensive” and by “jumping in wholeheartedly”.


Carl (fourth from left) lines up with his fellow Aquinas College ETG ‘18 pals, pictured with Aquinas religion teacher Symon Smyth-Kirk prior to the Saturday night dinner-dance. Photo: Matt Lim Photography.

Carl Alvares, 16, was one of seven vibrant pilgrims from Aquinas College to join ETG ‘18.

He found out about the youth conference through Paul Kelly, Head of Religion at Aquinas, who was one of the guest speakers during the five-day retreat.

This was the first ETG for Carl and his Aquinas buddies, who, having just finished Year 11, desired ways of broadening his faith formation during the holiday period.

“The talks were very informative and in-depth, I discovered more about my faith and felt it strengthened,” he said.

“People say they pray the Novena and God answers their prayers at the end or guide them, and I wasn’t sure how that works, like how do they know if God is guiding them to do that or if they’re convincing themselves?”


As an ETG tradition, the “Fr John O’Reilly mini-Olympics” was held on 7 December 2018 for some friendly competition. Photo: Marian Dela Fuente.

Carl was part of the Saint Joseph themed community group that won the overall “Fr John O’Reilly mini-Olympics”, voted for performing the best pre-games skit/chant.

The dinner-dance on the Saturday evening was another highlight of the week for the Canning Vale parishioner.

Carl paid tribute to his community group leaders, whose guidance was of great value to the young participants.

“It was very important because you can relate to them more as they’re not too much older than you, and hence are better role models and can guide you,” he explained.

“My faith has definitely been strengthened because of ETG. Recently, I have felt as though my faith has been weakening. Although we go to Church every week obligatorily, the evidence of the Catholic Church in recent times is not something that is elaborated on often.

“My experiences at ETG taught me of the host actually changing into the blood and body of Jesus Christ. Even though faith is believing in the unseen, sometimes you need that little bit of ‘seen’ to strengthen it.”

Coming together for meals and staying in dorms, Carl said, gave ETG a “family-feel” of connection.

“I am looking forward to the next ETG in two years’ time,” he avowed.