Catholic Free Press

Catholic Free Press Digital Edition

  • Oct
  • 24


Posted By October 24, 2013 | 12:43 pm | Lead Story #1

By Tanya Connor

WORCESTER – “It dug down deep into my spirit and it made me more open to Jesus.”
J.J. Ortiz, 14, of St. Paul Cathedral Parish, was talking about a retreat for Hispanic youth from around the diocese, held Saturday in The Arc at St. Joan of Arc Parish.
Others participants spoke of regaining faith during this Year of Faith event, and of learning about avoiding sin. Leaders raved about the response of the youth.
St. Paul’s Hispanic youth group, JESUS, sponsored “Youth Expedition,” a day of talks, skits, discussion, adoration, confessions and singing. Guest leaders came from Youth Explosion from Providence and Jovenes de Valor from Brooklyn, N.Y.
The retreat drew about 250 people, including leaders, and participants from junior high age through young adults from at least five parishes in the diocese, said Anthony Torres, an adult coordinator of the JESUS group. JESUS stands for Jovenes en el Espiritu Santo Unidos en la Salvación.
It was supposed to be bilingual, but was mostly in English, as that’s the language the youth understand, he said.
“This was a record – five priests that visited us today,” he said.
“This retreat was awesome,” said Barbara Lizardo, whose husband, Deacon Franklin Lizardo, serves at St. Paul’s, and spent part of the day with the youth, as did Deacon Colin Novick, also assigned to St. Paul’s.
“The kids came early and they were excited,” she said. “They focused when the Eucharist was in front; everybody was praying.”
“It was absolutely breathtaking, because they were so hungry for God’s presence,” said Marisel Rodriguez, a worship leader from Jovenes de Valor. She said this was the first time the group ministered here, that the youth said they came willingly and that the day’s theme was “faith.”
“They wanted more of God,” she said. “They’d rather choose living with God than the world.
“We sang a song ‘Set a Fire,’ asking God to ignite us with the Holy Spirit, to give us the passion to go out to the world to be a light in the darkness.”
Victoria Paulino, vice president of the JESUS group, said the day went extremely well, and raved about the support that came from groups in the diocese, including the monasteries that were praying for them.
“With all these prayers and assistance, I really feel like we were able to change lives today,” she said.
She said that at the JESUS group’s meeting Monday they planned to talk about the retreat “to encourage all the members to continue to seek holiness, because that’s our ultimate goal – to seek holiness and sainthood.” She said she thought other youth groups which brought participants would do something similar.
“I encourage you to find your home,” her sister Luisanna Paulino, president of the JESUS group, told the youth in wrapping up the retreat. “Your home is always going to be in the Catholic Church. … It does not end here. This is where you start.” She encouraged participants to continue “the fire God has started in your soul.”
Participants were invited to share a testimony about the day with the whole group.
“I really feel God and I feel much better,” said a young man. “I have my problems too. Who is perfect here?”
“God,” responded his peers.
“I felt really touched by God today because I had lost faith in him,” Ximena Areiza, a 16-year-old from St. Paul’s, said in her testimony. She went to confession after years of not going, she said. She led listeners in a chant: “I love Jesus.”
Afterwards she told The Catholic Free Press, “Faith is the biggest strength you can have to keep going with your path.”
Juanita Montoya, another 16-year-old from St. Paul’s, told the newspaper the day’s teachings helped her regained her faith, which she’d been losing. She said she learned about avoiding sin and not crying, as in constantly considering oneself a victim.
“It helped you out with problems you’ve been having at home,” said Axel Areiza, also from St. Paul’s. “It tells you not to do bad things.”
“First of all you have to thank her,” Wander Cristian, a 19-year-old from St. Louis Parish in Webster, said of Grisell Mendez, of St. Paul’s. “She called me yesterday. She texted me Tuesday.” Saturday morning she called him asking, “Where are you?” he said.
Finally there, he cried a lot, he said. And several people came up to him individually and said things that addressed what was going on in his life, without knowing about those things, he said.
The teachings also addressed his life, he said. He said he learned, “Pray more. Don’t have sex. You can have fun but put God as your main and first thing.”
He said he related to what one leader said about “playing around with girls,” and went to talk to him. The leader gave him the best advice, he said. That included: “Don’t put myself in certain positions that will lead to other things. … Try to mould myself into who God wants me to be, and then I can go and find the right person” for a wife. Always pray, because temptation is always there.”

Stay strong mentally, physically and spiritually.
“I know there’s more,” he said, eyes shining, pausing to recall what else he gained from the retreat.
“I was breaking down every time someone touched me,” offering a hug. “I think it was more because I was thinking about what I was working on,” rather than initiating the hugs.