Home' The Southern Cross : December 2015 Contents ACYF Adelaide 2015
They look like pop stars, they sing and
mix with some of the world’s best known
performers and their voices have won
them international acclaim.
But for Natasha and Gary Pinto (pictured
together, right), success is not measured
in Aria awards or album sales. “Every day
of your life is a success if you’re on track
with God,” Natasha told young people
attending a workshop during the Australian
Catholic Youth Festival in Adelaide.
The Perth singer/songwriter was on the
precipice of stardom after winning a radio
competition and touring with Pink and
Boyz II Men while also sharing the stage
with acts like Chris Brown and Rihanna.
But she came into conflict with a manager
who expected her to perform songs that
were against her morals.
She broke away from that scene and went
on to record an EP aptly called “Send a
Message” in 2012 and recently released
her second EP “Into the Sun” after a
chance meeting with producer Rob Fusari,
(Lady Gaga, Beyonce, Whitney Houston) in
Once again there was pressure from her
producer to “do sexy” but Natasha has
continued to stay true to herself.
“My beliefs may mean there is not a quick
road to success,” she said, “but I don’t
want to take that route”.
Gary was a member of a successful “boy
band” which took him around the world in
the nineties but he said the pinnacle of his
life was writing a song, Receive the Power,
for World Youth Day with Guy Sebastian.
“I have been through this massive overhaul
of my identity...my identity got pulled
away from me after the touring stopped
and I realised that I had forgotten that I
was a child of God,” he said.
Both Natasha and Gary attended World
Youth Day in Sydney but didn’t get
together until a few months later after
Natasha’s parents suggested they should
play music together and she contacted
him via Facebook.
Gary is convinced that this was God’s
work, as was an invitation for the couple to
travel to Israel to record an album and then
a chance meeting in New York with the
producer of Lady Gaga.
As vocals coach on the X Factor television
show, Gary has spent many a nervous
moment praying with the parents or
friends of a performer, including the mum
of last year’s 14-year-old winner, Marlisa
He said the past three winners all had a
very strong Christian faith, particularly
Cyrus Villaneuva who thanked God when
he won the competition recently.
When American singer/songwriter Steve
Angrisano stepped on to the Australian
Catholic Youth Festival stage on December
3 he did it with a heavy heart.
Three days earlier 14 people were gunned
down in a mass shooting in California,
bringing back difficult memories for Steve
(pictured) of the 1999 Columbine High
School massacre in his hometown of
Thirteen people were killed and 21 injured
– four of them belonged to Steve's parish.
He told more than 500 youth at his first
Festival workshop that the experience
deeply affected him.
"Sometimes things don't go the way we
expect or hope," he told the standing-
room-only audience at his Trading My
Sorrows presentation. “And we live in a
world that likes to say: ‘If there’s a God,
then why did that happen’,” he said.
"I promise there is a God who is real
and who created you in His image and
holds you in the palm of His hand and it's
something I've experienced in my life many
Steve played at and prepared the music
for the funerals of three of the slain teens.
Despite the tragic events, he said God was
present in many small miracles, including
a hall of 80 students left unscathed and
a teenage girl surviving life-threatening
wounds after being shot point blank
"I've learnt that God holds us so close
in difficult times," he said. "I don't know
how to answer people who say: 'where
was God in these difficult times?' because
for me I never felt God closer than those
Steve said the experience made him a
more passionate youth minister and a
"While I wish sometimes that I could
undo what happened, I also know that
sometimes in carrying our own cross that
we learn the things we are supposed to
learn and I wouldn't want to undo those
things I have learnt – to forgive and the
way I love – which is different now because
of the way I experienced those things."
Father Morgan Batt is a priest headed for
The international mountaineer from
Brisbane has completed 172 of the 270
highest peaks in every country and major
territory over the past 30 years.
He’s also the first and only priest to say
Mass on Mount Everest at about 8700m, a
feat he achieved in 2003.
Adding to his list earlier this month was
abseiling down the height of the Australian
Catholic Youth Festival stage at the
Adelaide Convention Centre.
He says mountaineering gives him a sense
of freedom, of being close to God and
meeting so many diverse people. He says
from the world’s highest peaks he can
admire God’s creation and feels nearest to
“I’ve just seen so many beautiful things,”
In the opening plenary he told the crowd of
3500 young Catholics that Jesus was born
on a mountain; grew up on a mountain;
prayed, healed and taught on a mountain
and ascended from a mountain.
It was on the Mount that Jesus spoke
of the eight Beatitudes, which inspired
the theme for the festival and next year’s
World Youth Day.
“If you don’t think mountains are important
to Jesus then you don’t know anything
about him,” says Fr Morgan.
“Mountains are the place where heaven
and earth meet.”
Fr Morgan says his desire to mountain
climb came when he was seven. “I was
sitting on the floor of my aunt’s kitchen
and she had one of those 1970s murals of
Mount Everest hanging on the wall and I
told her: ‘I’m going to climb that mountain
one day Aunt Mai’.”
Fr Morgan was ordained a priest 24 years
ago. He is the vocations director for the
Brisbane Archdiocese and has served as
an Australian Defence Force chaplain for
the last 14 years. His tours of duty include
the Middle East and Timor.
Priest drops in for festival
US singer trades his sorrows
Front cover: Youth arriving at the Adelaide Convention Centre. Photo: Ben Macmahon
For more photos and stories of the festival in Adelaide go to www.thesoutherncross.org.au
By Jenny Brinkworth
Photo: Daniel Hopper
Photo: Daniel Hopper
Photo: Daniel Hopper
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