Youth Chaplaincy

Church Lads and Church Girls Brigade

The history of youth chaplaincy, still to be written, is mixed up in the history of youth movements, youth work and youth work education. On the basis of research it has been indicated that the development of youth work in Australia progressed along similar historical lines to those in other first world countries. Mirroring comparable milestones in England, New Zealand and the USA, Australian youth work programs were first delivered by Christian-based organisations such as the YMCA and the Boys and Girls Brigades. Stressing duty, obedience, loyalty and service, boys and, to a lesser extent girls, were organised into (literally) uniformed groups and taught what was deemed necessary for being a fully rounded citizen of the day. These Protestant examples are only a few of the numerous programs begun by all Christian denominations instigated to provide structure to the lives of young people, which well-meaning adults perceived them to have none.

CYMS logo The Catholic equivalents, the Catholic Young Men’s Society (CYMS) and the Young Christian Workers (YCW), continue today, but have never provided any official significant training for the youth ministry leaders of these programs which are seen as a ‘stepping stone’ into other areas of church ministry. In recent decades, the principal focus of Catholic youth work activity has focused around Catholic secondary colleges, university chaplaincies and World Youth Day in recent decades.

Prior to 1885, the Boston YMCA had begun to employ ‘gymnasium superintendents’ which led to the training of ‘physical directors’. David Allen Reed (1850 – 1932), a Congregationalist minister, wanted to provide training for lay workers employed at churches, YMCAs and related institutions in quasi-chaplain roles. Supported by the beliefs of Luther Halsey Gulick (1865 – 1918), a YMCA employee during the late 1800s, who strongly believed in ‘the unity of body, mind and spirit’ through physical education and recreational activities, Reed’s actions led to the creation of the YMCA College in 1885, in Springfield, Massachusetts, giving credence to an activity conservative Christians had previously shown little regard for (Limbert 1957). So began the history of youth work education.

Youth Chaplaincy in Victoria

World Youth Day, Panama, 2019The Melbourne Anglican archdiocese has regional youth officers operating under a youth ministry coordinator. They provide consultancy to parishes, support parish clergy in developing a vision for youth ministry, run training camps for youth leaders and hold camps and other events for young people. The Greek Orthodox Church has a central Youth Committee for Victoria. Catholic Social Services lists only Marist Youth Care under the Youth Training and Support banner but there is the Melbourne Archdiocesan Office for Youth with the Sri Lankan priest, Dishan Candappa, and the director, Jess Denehy. Its mission is to inspire and engage young people in the life and mission of the Catholic Church. Its patrons are Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati and St Mary MacKillop. As part of Australasia’s largest Catholic diocese, it helps organise the biennial Australian Catholic Youth Festival with the most recent one held in December 2017 and participates in World Youth Day, the most recent of which was held on 22–27 January 2019 in Panama City, Panama, it was the first of its kind celebrated in Central America.


Kick off event at World Youth Day, Panama, 22 January 2019
Opening Prayer at World Youth Day, Panama, 22 January 2019