Catholic Free Press

Catholic Free Press Digital Edition

  • Jul
  • 26

‘Go to Mass’

Posted By July 26, 2012 | 12:44 pm | Lead Story #1
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By Jessica Valera and Tanya Connor

KINGSTON, R.I. – For God’s sake, go to Mass.
That message, to be taken literally, was driven home to about 2,700 teenagers and adult leaders Saturday at the annual Life Teen Steubenville East high school youth conference.
Franciscan University of Steubenville in Steubenville, Ohio, plans this conference, 16 others in the United States and one in Canada, said Pattie Flynn of Dedham, regional coordinator. The Life Teen religious education/youth ministry program helps put on three of the conferences .
Attending this one Friday through Sunday at the University of Rhode Island were people from New England and a few other states, she said. More than 150 of them were youth and adults from at least 10 parishes in the Worcester Diocese, according to local leaders.
In his homily at Saturday’s Mass, Father Michael Schmitz, director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry for the Diocese of Duluth, talked about Batman and the T.V. series “Lost.” He said even if one doesn’t like the ending, one must let authors tell the story because they have a plan, just as God has a plan for creation and redemption.
Father Schmitz told how eating fruit from the tree led to death in the Creation story, and how Jesus died on a tree so those who eat its fruit (his Body) will live. Jesus rested in the tomb on the day of rest.
“But there was this eighth day … the day that Jesus set us free … the day that Jesus began re-creating the world,” he said, alluding to the conference’s theme from Isaiah 43:1 – “Is freedom so that you and I can do whatever we want?”
He told of God having Moses tell Pharaoh, “Let my people go, so that they can go worship me.” Father Schmitz continued, “Freedom is for worship, but worship is giving God what he wants.”
The priest said he and his siblings asked their mother what she wanted for her birthday. She said, “clean the house.” Instead, they gave her what they wanted to: a drawing, new bike tricks, something purchased while shopping with her car and money.
“How does God want to be worshipped?” Father Schmitz asked. “In the Eucharist.” Those who go to Mass when they’d rather do something else are saying, “Jesus, not what I want, but what you want,” he said.
“The whole purpose of this book (the Bible) is to get you and I to Mass,” he said. “This is Jesus today inviting you to be part of this story.”
Listeners were invited to pray for and support a Life Teen mission base in Haiti. They were told half of the collection from Mass would go toward it.
In a session for first-time conference attendees, Jason Evert told saints’ stories – “because this is your family.”
Mr. Evert, a Franciscan University graduate, author, chastity speaker and apologist for Catholic Answers, wondered how one could claim, “I love Jesus, but I hate religion,” when “Jesus started a religion” – the Catholic Church. Separating Jesus from the Church is like severing his head from his body, he said.
Mr. Evert talked about men’s and women’s roles. Men are called to serve with their strength, he said, and told of a groom washing his bride’s feet in place of the traditional garter ceremony.
“The man is the giver of life-giving love,” he said, adding that if men don’t initiate love, they initiate lust, or turn it in on themselves in pornography or masturbation, initiating nothing. He talked about men asking women out on dates, giving them the better seat at the restaurant, etc.
He said when they see a beautiful woman, instead of telling themselves, “Sex is bad; I can’t think about it,” they should pray, “God, thank you for making your daughter so beautiful,” a reminder of heavenly bliss. Mr. Evert told men if they give a woman their body, they are to give her their 401K, a wedding ring, etc.
He told the women, “You’re the pinnacle of creation, and “only one man deserves to see the glory of your body.” He spoke of women actively receiving love to give life to the world.
Meanwhile, Chris Padgett, musician, youth minister and conference entertainer, spoke to returning students.
He talked of the difficulty of living all year what one gains at the conferences. He suggested asking God for grace, through prayer and the sacraments of reconciliation and the Eucharist, and learning about and doing good.
“What is the choice you can make today that will enable you to be the saint God wants you to be?” he asked. “You don’t accidentally become a saint, you don’t accidentally end up in hell, you don’t accidentally go to heaven.”
He urged listeners to love someone who is lost and live for someone else as they want someone to live for them.
“Chris did a remarkable job of grabbing your attention,” Ornella Quinn, a youth minister from St. Bernadette Parish in Northborough, said. He shocked youth with his humor, and gave them things to remember, she said.
Dominic Arcona, 14, a first-timer from St. Bernadette’s, said he liked the saints’ stories; “They’re a good example for how I should live my own life.”
“I was really into the talks this year, paying attention, and really just into what they were saying,” said Kaitlyn Jahn, of St. Bernard Parish at St. Camillus Church in Fitchburg. “Tammy (Evevard) was really cool. She helped me realize that you don’t have to do amazing things to be a saint; just be the best version of you.” Mrs. Evevard is a national speaker from Colorado who has done youth ministry.
Shannon Furgal, 14, a St. Bernadette’s first-timer, said it was easy to relate to speakers: they weren’t boring.
“This is my third conference, and there were a lot more people who were encouraging to the new-comers than the past few years,” said Angela Pallotta, of St. Anna Parish in Leominster. “Everyone was excited to be here, even if they were new, and it was nice to see long lines for confession.”
“I think it’s great for the youth to see how wonderful our Catholic faith is,” said Shawn Shields, of St. Bernadette’s, who came for the first time with his daughter, Erin, 14. Erin said, “I liked the music and the adoration; it helps to bring you closer to Jesus.”
Others agreed.
“I love to come to the conference, especially because of adoration, which usually sticks in my head,” said Liz Canney, a third-timer from St. Joseph Parish in Charlton. “It really helps me work out the things that are going on in my life.”
“The big thing for me is adoration,” said Colleen Haran, a St. Joseph’s fourth-timer. “Spending time with the people here, I have become so close to them. And through adoration I have become closer to God and have cleansed my soul. This is also the first time I have seen Chris Padgett speak and he was really good.”
“The conference is healing for me and seeing people my age who all feel the same about the faith is cleansing for me,” said Tori Boniface, a St. Joseph’s second-timer. “The adoration is like a deep cleansing shampoo.”
These attendees spoke with The Catholic Free Press during the day Saturday.
After the conference Veronica Behonick, 17, of St. Patrick Parish in Rutland, said that during Saturday night’s adoration she was most at peace of any time during her three years attending the conference. The conferences are different each time, but always have the same effect, she said.
She said she would encourage youth who don’t think they will like it to go anyway. It gives those who don’t go to summer camp time away from home – with Catholic teaching – she said.
“I just think it’s a great experience because you’re with thousands of Catholic teens,” said Connor Murphy, 16, of St. Columba Parish in Paxton. “You’re all in one place worshipping. It’s just fun knowing that everybody there has the same beliefs as you and they’re not judging you. I would like to encourage kids to go. It’s a great experience.”