By Tanya Connor
Leaders prayed that the night would transform participants, that they would encounter God, perhaps for the first time, and give him whatever was holding them back.
Speaker Giovanni Calisse, of the Providence Diocese, made points using stories and Scripture.
He said God has a plan for each person’s life, but sometimes they reject it or are impatient. He recalled telling God he would be happy if God gave him the girl he had a crush on in junior high. But after getting to know someone better, one might thank God for not giving her to him, he said.
“How many of my ladies love to go shopping for shoes?” Mr. Calisse asked listeners, to enthusiastic screaming. He asked how they would feel if they choose shoes two sizes too small, and likened it to “putting on a shoe” that doesn’t fit God’s plan.
Sometimes things happen that cause people to question their faith, he said, and told of learning a high school friend had committed suicide.
After high school God gave him a community, but instead he joined the nightclub singing world, which said money, status and lust are required for happiness, he said.
“I was partying with celebrities,” he said. “I did everything the world told me.” But the world didn’t tell him his best friend, a drug dealer, would land in the hospital, then jail, or that a man he knew of would die of an overdose.
“I used to love my family, but I became a workaholic,” Mr. Calisse said; he missed so many events they stopped inviting him. He got so he didn’t care about people, and broke up with the girl he should have married, he said.
Instead of happiness, he experienced resentment and disappointment, he said.
“Some of you guys are in the same exact position I was in,” he told listeners. “Jesus doesn’t care what mistakes you’ve made. … He only cares about you. … I made a choice to walk away from sin. … Tonight … you all have that same choice. And you can do it.”
He asked how many wanted to start a new life that night, and a few hands were tentatively raised. He told listeners when the world tells them they are not worthy, they should say they are; they are daughters and sons of God.
He asked if they believed Jesus could heal their suffering and told them Jesus was going to be there in the Blessed Sacrament, and they might need to “bust that door down” asking him to fix something.
“I found a lot of questions that I asked Jesus,” Shamus Flynn, 12, said afterwards, explaining that he came with his aunt, since he doesn’t always go to church. “I didn’t know I needed to ask him, but I feel as if they should have been asked and I’m glad I asked him.” Although he didn’t get a clear response, lyrics of the songs provided answers, he said.
“I thought tonight was very energetic,” said Timothy Kasierski, 17, of St. Joseph Parish in Charlton. “Everyone was participating a lot. It was a really good turnout. I think Father Nick did a great job.”
“God is good,” said his associate pastor, Father Nicholas Desimone, who is interim director of the diocesan Office for Youth Ministry. “It was the payoff for a lot of prayer.” He said the event was a great start for the Year of Faith.
Father Desimone and at least four other priests were present, along with Deacon Eduardas V. Meilus, former director of the youth ministry office, now at St. Mark Parish in Sutton, who had started planning the event.
“I thought it was great,” said Evan Grenwald, 16, of St. Rose of Lima. “It was something I’ve never been to. I look forward to going to one again.”
Charles Lanza, 18, a College of the Holy Cross student from New York, said this was the first time he attended something like this.
“I considered myself more of a traditional Catholic,” he said. “I was a little unsure, so I decided to come into it openly. I felt the same way as when I normally pray on my own, except this time I was praying with everybody. The music really helped that. I definitely needed this lift.”
Gloria Josephs, youth minister at St. Luke the Evangelist Parish in Westborough, said she was happy that the youth for whom this was a new experience were open to it.
Kathleen Lawrence, also from St. Luke’s, spoke of the joy of seeing so many young people together, knowing there is more to life than the trappings of the world.