Antioch is a structured spiritual program, bridging school and post-school years and providing an experience of small Christian community within the parish. For ages 16-22 (and a little older), it begins with a weekend experience and has a strong weekly follow-up. Its vision of Church is one of a community of believers that exists to evangelise (‘May they all be one … that the world may believe’, John 17:21).
Antioch takes its name from the place of one of the first known Christian communities. ‘It was at Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians’ (Acts 11:26). The Antioch program was developed at University of Notre Dame, Indiana, USA in the 1960s and later adapted for parishes. It was brought to Australia by three teenagers in 1981. From there is has spread to New Zealand, Fiji, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Hungary and Slovakia.
It has four characteristics:
- Parish-based. It provides a ‘safe place’ within the parish where young people can explore their direction in life and develop their faith within a structured environment.
- Youth to youth. Youth give the talks, lead the discussion groups and the music ministry. Youth presentation helps to make Church teaching relevant to their peers.
- Spiritual. Spiritual formation is the focus. There is a relational approach to faith, with emphasis on scripture and the sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist.
- Adults. Married couples/adults play a vital role, guiding and supporting the youth and workshopping all talks.
Antioch spreads from parish to parish. An interested parish sends a team of ten young people, together with adult supports, to experience a weekend. This is followed by a formation period of 3-6 months during which the new group invites others to join them and, when ready, put on their own weekend.