Over the weekend, Pope Francis named the inaugural – and current – director of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference’s Office for Youth a consultor to the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life.
Mr Hart, who has worked in ministry with young people for more than two decades, including with the Bunbury Diocese and the Archdiocese of Brisbane, said the appointment prompted a range of emotions, including being surprised, humbled and overwhelmed.
“I appreciate the opportunity to continue to advocate for and support young people with this new appointment,” he said, saying one of the group’s key tasks will be carrying forward the work of the Synod of Bishops on Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment currently being held in Rome.
He said the appointment was a reflection on what is taking place in the Catholic Church in Australia, as much as a reflection on himself.
“I believe this appointment affirms the support and direction of the Australian bishops in their efforts to build upon World Youth Day 2008 and to build a Church for young people,” Mr Hart explained.
“It also highlights the local work of youth ministers, priests and religious, and teachers around Australia and in Oceania, as it is the collection of their efforts which have continued to transform our ministry landscape in Australia.”
He said he looks forward to listening and learning from other people working in youth ministry around the world, but he believes the Australian experience of evangelising young people and also in grappling with the Church’s and society’s perspectives on family, marriage and life issues offers lessons for other countries.
Mr Hart said watching the first few days of the current Synod of Bishops unfold, he’s seen many positive signs.
He said the contributions from bishops and young people have highlighted “the diverse realities and needs of young people from around the world”.
“I am affirmed by these interventions as they have mapped the diversity of challenges of youth, but also the hope and opportunity young people bring to the Church. I am also affirmed by the joy in which bishops have shared of the experience at the Synod and the great hope they have for the Church in young people.”
Mr Hart said as a husband and father, he will bring those experiences of family to his advisory role, and he recognised that without his family’s love and support, it would be impossible to carry out his day-to-day work and take on his new task.
Mr Hart also thanked Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP, who has served as the ACBC’s Delegate for Youth during his time as director of the Office for Youth, and the many young people, colleagues and friends who helped shape his work professionally and personally.
“I will carry all these with me as I listen to what the Spirit is asking of the Church locally, nationally and now universally,” he said.