When you’re organising a Catholic youth even for the first time common sense would tell you to start small, organise a few speakers, and tap some local talent for the music ministry. What you should never do is to book Matt Maher, the biggest name in worship music in the world, and see what happens. However, that’s exactly what the team at NET Ministries did for the Fortify Youth Conference. It was more than a shot in the dark. It was a leap of faith and it paid off!
The Fortify Youth Conference was designed to showcase youth ministry options available to parishes in Ireland. Over 200 people from across Ireland attended who were involved in or concerned about ministry to young people. As you can imagine there’s about two degrees of separation, so if you didn’t know someone the chances were you knew someone who did. The atmosphere was joyful and welcoming.
The day began with a series of inputs from different speakers in the field of youth ministry, discussing the difference young people make in our Church. Our ministry can simply be about getting young people to go to Mass. We have to be clear what we’re hoping to achieve. We looked at what needed to change and what different groups were doing successfully. Then we asked the big question: What’s stopping you from getting stuck in and making a difference yourself? We finished the day with a sense of hope and enthusiasm for the future. The Fortify Youth Conference wasn’t a once off event. It’s a beginning. Now lets get moving!
After the conference we had an evening concert with Matt Maher. Matt is an eight time-GRAMMY nominee, he has garnered multiple radio successes writing and recording songs like “Lord, I Need You,” “Hold Us Together,” “Christ Is Risen,” “Because He Lives (Amen)” and “Your Grace Is Enough.” Maher has penned songs recorded by Chris Tomlin, Crowder, Third Day, Matt Redman, Hillsong, Casting Crowns, Jesus Culture and Bethel among others. Matt has written or co-written five No. 1 radio singles. In 2013, Maher had a career highlight performing in Rio in front of Pope Francis and a crowd of 3 million people, as well as performing in 2015 in downtown Philadelphia as part of the World Meeting of Families with The Fray, Aretha Franklin, Juanes, Jim Gaffigan, among others. In 2015, Maher was awarded his first RIAA Gold certification for his popular single “Lord, I Need You.” Most importantly having met him previously at the Brightlights Catholic Youth Festival and the Alpha Leadership Conference I can tell you he’s a really sound guy.