Catholic Free Press

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  • Oct
  • 8

North county parishes gather youth for Year of Faith rally

Posted By October 8, 2013 | 10:12 am | Lead Story #3
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By Michael O’Connell
and Patricia O’Connell
CFP Correspondents

FITCHBURG – Unlike many of the kids in attendance, St. Bernard’s Central Catholic High School junior Hailey Droogan didn’t make a special plan to attend the “Walk By Faith” youth rally at her high school Sunday. Her field hockey practice had just finished, the rally looked interesting, and she decided to stay.
“I was here already, so I thought I’d come,” Miss Droogan, 16, said as she created a key chain in the shape of a cross out of beads and wire at a crafts table outside the St. Bernard’s Activity Center. “It’s fun. It’s fun learning new things.”
A team of pastors in Fitchburg, Leominster and Gardner organized the youth rally to help inspire young people from the area in celebration of the conclusion of the church’s worldwide Year of Faith initiative. The rally attracted about 175 children and parents for an afternoon of speakers, activities, music and a teen Mass.
The organizers said they wanted to blend together an afternoon of fun and messages to get area youths more involved in their faith.
“We’re hoping this will be the beginning of an annual event,” said Father Robert Bruso, pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Fitchburg, who noted this first rally was held to mark the closing of the 2012-2013 Year of Faith proclaimed by Pope Benedict XVI.
Father Bruso said the rally organizers made a decision to limit the event to just a few hours and to include a lot of activities, rather than long talks.
“We’d rather have people go to it and say, ‘We wish there was more,’” he remarked.
Father Jose Rodriguez, pastor of Holy Family of Nazareth Parish in Leominster, said this was a joint effort between area priests, deacons, religious education directors and youth ministers. He said there wasn’t any one leader. Rather, it was “all of us working together.”
He said the goal of inviting the youth was to “remind them the Church is alive.”
The event kicked off with a couple of quick games to lighten the mood. Showing off his math skills, Christian Bernard, 15, of Leominster, won an elimination competition where contestants, faced each other, flashed a number of fingers and quickly counted the number of fingers on contestants’ collective hands. Then Alaina Valcourt, 17, of Fitchburg, won a $15 Dunkin’ Donuts gift card in a challenge to see who can Google the terms “walk” and “faith” and come up with a prayer. She found “Two Corinthians 5.7.”
Sister Mary Naccarato, PBVM, a church ministry leader at St. Bernard’s Central Catholic High School, followed the early round of games with a talk detailing her view of the “Walk By Faith” theme. To walk the walk, she said, we all need to build a “tripod” that balances your life with three legs – of prayer, study and action.
“All you photographers out there, if your tripod isn’t level, what happens?” she asked the crowd seated on bleachers inside the school’s Activity Center. “Your picture’s not level. It’s the same thing in faith.”
Prayer and study, of course, are important, she said, but what is missing with many people is the act of putting  faith into action.
“I want you all to take a look at your tripods. Some of you might find it’s a little out of balance,” Sister Mary said. “This gives us a focal point and a starting point. We all want to achieve balance and stand tall in life.”
And how can youths put their faith into action that afternoon? Maura Sweeney, director of religious education at the Holy Rosary/Sacred Heart Parish in Gardner, outlined the many activities the organizers had put together – everything from joining the choir to making a hat for a needy child to participating in an obstacle course challenge.
Gabbie Brodeur, 17, of St. Bernard’s High School, is one area youth who puts her faith into action regularly throughout the year. The communicant of St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Fitchburg serves on her parish council and helps host a teen gathering every Sunday afternoon. On this day, she joined her friends Alexis Gibbons and Erica Sandrelli making hats for needy children.
“I like being involved in this kind of stuff,” she said. “I just like to be involved in service.”