Catholic Free Press

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Retreat called ‘joyful’

Posted By March 8, 2012 | 1:04 pm | Lead Story #2
Youth_2260WEB

By Tanya Connor

WORCESTER – “We are not our sins,” Father Nicholas Desimone, associate pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Charlton, told dozens of youth at a Lenten Evening of Reflection last Friday. “Our truest identity is … children of God. … We can always return home.”
The evening, sponsored by the diocesan Office for Youth Ministry, was held at Immaculate Conception Parish.
It included adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and music – from “Lord, I Lift Your Name on High” to “Holy God We Praise Thy Name.” Charles and Pamela Hamilton and Mark Lorusso, who have a guitar ministry at Sacred Heart-St. Catherine of Sweden Parish, led the music, projecting words, accompanied by photos, on a large screen. Ice-breaker games, snacks and informal socializing followed in the church hall.
Peter Nguyen, of Our Lady of Vilna Parish, told The Catholic Free Press that youth and adults in the Vietnamese Christian Light Community from his parish, from St. James Parish in South Grafton and from Methuen attended.
“I just liked it, how everything was very happy and joyful,” Michelle Le, a 15-year-old from Our Lady of Vilna, said of the evening. “I expected more, like, having them talk.”
“I don’t really understand church in English,” Ximena Areiza, 14, of St. Paul Cathedral, said. While she spoke English practically flawlessly, she said she is used to worshipping in Spanish. This was the first time she attended such an event in English, but she went to things for youth in her native country – Colombia – she said. She said she tried to follow the words of the songs on the screen at Friday’s event, but it was hard to see, as she was sitting far back.
“The songs were interesting,” said Rebecca Kurucz, 16, of Immaculate Conception.
“Stuff I hadn’t heard before,” added her sister Ashley, 18.
“It was organized – good music,” said Fernando Chapa, 15, of St. Paul’s.
“I really appreciated to be here today,” added Max Perez, 16, also of St. Paul’s. When he was asked why, Fernando answered: “Because not many churches organize this kind of thing.”
“It’s a good experience – just the way they explained your life, when the priest was talking,” said their fellow-parishioner Tyler Casey, 15.
“I think it’s great so many of you came out tonight, on a Friday night,” Father Desimone had told the youth at the end of the service. He told them that when people give, they receive 10 times more.
In his homily he had told parts of the stories of the Prodigal Son from Luke 15:11-32 and Captain Mendoza from the movie “The Mission.”
Captain Mendoza kills his brother, then thinks, “There is no mercy for me,” Father Desimone said.
“He forgot who God made him to be,” the priest said. He believed there was no hope for him.
The Prodigal Son, by asking for his inheritance while his father was still alive, was saying, “You’re dead to me,” Father Desimone said. But he differed from Captain Mendoza in that he said, after squandering his inheritance, “Let me go back to my father.” He had the courage and humility to recognize he had done wrong, but also that his father would forgive him. His father ran to him.
“If I draw nearer to him by an inch, he draws nearer to me by a foot,” Father Desimone said of God. “If I go to him walking, he comes to me running.”     “It’s one of my favorite images of God,” he said. “God loves excessively. It causes God joy to have his children at home with him.”
Father Desimone said that in the movie Father Gabriel challenged Captain Mendoza: “Do you dare to take up a penance, with the possibility that you might be forgiven?” A reconciliation follows, he said, telling his young listeners, “You’ve got to see this movie.”
Focusing on the older brother of the Prodigal Son, the priest said, “It’s very easy for us to become jealous” of those who sin, and return and expect to be reconciled. But, he said, “We want, we need God’s love. … We should try, this Lent, to be more like the Father, to be loving as he is loving, generous as he is generous, merciful as he is merciful.”
In introducing a song Mr. Hamilton also recounted a Bible story – about Peter trying to walk on water and sinking. (Matthew 14:22-33)
“This is the season of Lent,” the music leader told the youth. “Nothing is impossible to you.”
“It’s so easy, just keep your eyes on me,” Jesus says in the song. “It’s so easy, just let your faith flow free. … Because all that I am, and all that I have is for free.”