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Fun, faith pushes youth ‘into the deep’

Posted By July 3, 2013 | 1:03 pm | Lead Story #3

By Jessica Valera
CFP Correspondent

ATTLEBORO – Push out into the deep. This statement, taken from Luke 5:4, was the theme of the La Salette Youth Rally 2013, held at the National Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette on Saturday. It encouraged young people to deepen their faith.
“I really enjoyed the day, it was a lot of fun,” Addie White, 13, of St. Leo Parish in Leominster, said. “To have fun and learn about God at the same time was great. I thought I was living my faith right, but today showed me that now I have to ‘get in my boat and push out in to the deep.’”
More than 200 people gathered for the rally, including 16 teenagers and chaperones from the Diocese of Worcester. The day-long event included Mass, workshops, guest speakers, an outdoor rosary, ice-breaker games, eucharistic adoration, confession, and praise and worship.
“You can’t get together with 200 young people and not have fun,” Scott Anthony, guest host of the youth rally, said. “When you infuse young people with the Holy Spirit it’s fun; fun mixed with freedom, fun mixed with joy, fun mixed with faith.”
Mr. Anthony, who developed the eucharistic-centered Fan the Fire Youth Rallies for high school students in the Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and New Jersey area, provided a comic opening to the day, using his humor and 20 years experience in youth ministry to engage the rally attendees. He told the young people that he knows of the pressures to conform to society, but reminded them that “today is about letting go.” He then assured them that freedom comes with having Christ within their hearts.
“Be not afraid,” Mr. Anthony said. “Don’t be afraid of feeling, don’t be afraid of what other people are thinking of you, don’t be afraid of fear itself; just be open to today.”
Mariah Comeau, 16, of Our Lady of the Lake Parish in Leominster, praised the opening session.
“I really liked the beginning,” Ms. Comeau said. “It got us ready for the day, and what we were going to do, and what to expect.”
The keynote speaker for the rally was Mark Nimo, a west-African-native lay evangelist, worship leader, and youth minister, who has ministered in 38 different countries and on all continents. He stressed in his address the importance of two particular truths.
“We serve an awesome God, that’s the first thing that we must recognize,” Mr. Nimo said. “Don’t forget this.”
The second point he spoke of with equal importance.
“He’s got a plan for you, and he wants to reveal to you that plan,” Mr. Nimo said.
He then proceeded to discuss the importance of faith in life, and how Christ transforms lives.
“The good news is God wants to be involved in your life,” he said. “He wants to get into your boat, to push you out in to the deep.”
Mr. Nimo concluded his address with personal testimony, encouraging young people to free themselves from the negative “business” that binds them through going to confession and creating a relationship with Christ.
“Jesus knows where each one of us is at, and he wants to get into your business,” he said. “Jesus says, ‘I want to embrace you in your path, and transform you to be the best version of yourself.’”
Following the keynote, the young people were able to choose from four different workshops. Mr. Anthony and Mr. Nimo each held a workshop. Liz Cotrupi, youth minister and musician, and Giovanni Calise, executive director of Rock My Faith, a Christian non-profit dedicated to promoting Jesus Christ in culture through the media, conducted the other two. All four used personal testimonies to reach their audience.
In his workshop, Mr. Anthony discussed his struggle with self-image, and how it showed him the need to have a relationship with Christ. “Each day we are given the choice to take one step closer to Jesus, or one step away from him,” he said. “Which step will you take?” he asked the workshop attendees.
“I really liked Scott’s testimony,” Katie Villa, 15, of Sacred Heart-St. Catherine of Sweden Parish in Worcester, said. “He didn’t seem like he would struggle with what he did, but he did, and he was able to overcome it. It was very inspiring.”
Mr. Calise, shared the difficulty he faced with the pressures of society and discussed the mixed messages that the culture feeds young people.
“What Jesus says you need and what culture says you need contradict each other,” Mr. Calise said. “The culture today says you need to be pretty, have money and power and social status, and that violence, drugs, alcohol, and lust are normal; all this is opposite of what God wants.”
The other two workshops, led by Ms. Cotrupi and Mr. Nimo, had the topics of opening one’s heart to Jesus and accepting Jesus into all aspects of life, respectively.
“The workshops spoke to the heart,” said Lyndsey Cann, 15, of Sacred Heart-St. Catherine of Sweden Parish. “I used to think church was boring, but, after listening to these workshops, not anymore.”
She was not the only one who enjoyed the talks.
“My favorite part of the day was the workshops,” Jilian Ahola, 13, of St. Anna Parish in Leominster, said. “We got to hear about people going through different things and how they made it through. It was a lot different than what I expected, but a good different.”
The rally concluded with Mass, which was celebrated by Father Phil “Skip” Negley, provincial superior of La Salette Missionaries. During his homily, Father Negley encouraged the young people to embrace their faith and to be the person God calls them to be. He closed with a story about a Little League baseball game, encouraging all to look at the situations they face in life as “only the first inning,” with plenty of the game left to play.
“Going to Mass was my favorite part of the day,” Jacob Lorusso, 12, of Sacred Heart-St. Catherine of Sweden Parish, said. “I was into it more than before because of the talks. It was all a great experience.”