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Wednesday 24 July, 2019

As the Clock counted down for the beginning of the Ablaze concert in Shepparton, 600 grade five and six students from the Goulburn Valley area joined in the countdown, shouting out the numbers, 5..4..3..2..1. before erupting into thunderous applause.

Loud music with a heavy rock beat rang out across the auditorium as coloured beams of light streamed across the stage, moving from side to side. Amid the deafening applause, Fr Rob called for the students to stand up, and more cheers broke out as they jumped to their feet, ready to join in. This is the first time the Ablaze concert has included a concert for primary aged students and the reaction was priceless.

The grade five and six students from 10 Catholic Schools in the Sandhurst Diocese travelled from as far away as Echuca and Cobram to attend the event. Grade six student Maggie, from St Johns Euroa said the concert provided a different experience to church. “It’s technically church, but in a creative way, involving pop songs with Christian songs, and just having fun.”

More than 1400 students took part in the Ablaze festival over two days at Eastbank Centre in Shepparton. The event started on Tuesday, July 23 for secondary students from years 9, 10 and 11, followed by the primary school event on Wednesday July 24.

“It’s not what I expected,” said Cruiz, a grade five student from St Brendan’s in Shepparton. “I thought we would just be sitting in the theatre, but instead we got to do all the actions and the dance moves and it was lots of fun!”

Fr Rob Galea headlined the festival, performing original songs and well as some well-known pop classics. During the day he shared a personal account of his time on the X Factor, telling students how he chose to leave the show to focus on his role as a priest, his true passion.

The Ablaze festival hit the right note with students of all ages with high-energy music, testimonials, games and liturgy. The theme for the event ‘Listen’ reflects on the 2019 theme for the Sandhurst diocese, ‘Listen with the Ear of your Heart’. The theme reminds students and staff to stop and listen to what God might be trying to say in our lives.

‘We wanted to bring the curriculum into a living experience,” said Father Rob. “Music has to make sense, it’s not about singing hymns in front of kids, it’s about singing songs that are somehow real for them.”

Guest presenter, Sam Clear told students of his extraordinary journey of walking across the world for unity! The Australian walked 15,636 kilometres, from the jungles of South America to the icy winds of Siberia and on to Spain, over 568 days! As a public speaker, Sam now inspires thousands to make a difference in the world around them.

“There were a lot of lessons to be learnt from the journey, things like over-coming adversity and how to be silent in prayer, which is what we are talking about with students at the Ablaze Festival,” said Sam.

The Ablaze Youth Day is an initiative of Catholic Education Sandhurst to reach out to young people, providing a forum that combines live music, engaging speakers and an opportunity for students to celebrate and learn about their faith.

Grade five students, Irish and Immy from St John’s Euroa enthusiastically summed up the event, “we had an amazing time,” they said. “We didn’t know that it would be like this, with the instruments, music, dancing and actions, it has been really great!”

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