The 18 months since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic have been challenging for high school students. Canceled athletics, graduations, dances and more uprooted the fabric of their lives, creating, for many, a sense of isolation.
Youth ministry programs of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend were not untouched. Retreats, pilgrimages, meetings and other events were postponed or canceled. It is from within this context that diocesan Director of Youth Ministry John Pratt planned a celebration to once again bring the youth of the diocese together.
Diocesan World Youth Day is an annual experience offering young men and women grades 9-12 a fun and faith-filled celebration of their Catholic faith. On Aug. 28 at Headwaters Park in Fort Wayne, Diocesan World Youth Day will take on a new form: a single-day, outdoor event complete with music, food trucks, speakers, activities, games, eucharistic exposition and Mass with Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades.
The event will be emceed by Father Agustino Torres, CFR, and music will be provided by Kairy Marquez and Damascus Worship. This year’s special guests include the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration, diocesan priests and seminarians, members of the Congregation of Holy Cross, local college campus ministers and the Damascus Missionaries.
Lexie Kloska is a member of the 2021-22 Diocesan Youth Leadership team assisting at Diocesan World Youth Day. Kloska shared, “I already feel that the Holy Spirit is going to be strongly present during this event, and I cannot wait to see how He works in my life and the lives of the other people there. I am hoping to be overcome with joy at just how good God is and how wonderful his plans are for me. I feel like being with a bunch of other teens who are also filled with love for the Lord will help to strengthen my own relationship with Him.”
The opportunity to join with other teens comes just months after Pope Francis urged dioceses “to give increasingly more importance to the diocesan celebration of WYD” in his “Pastoral Guidelines for the Celebration of World Youth Day in the Particular Churches.”
The international World Youth Day celebration occurs every few years, with the next being in Lisbon, Portugal, in 2023, but, Pratt shared, “Every year since 1985, the Holy Father has given a theme for young people and the entire Church to reflect upon and celebrate.” This year’s theme is “Stand up! I appoint you as a witness of what you have seen,” from Acts 26:16.
“Our diocesan WYD offers the youth of our diocese a festival of faith in which to celebrate God’s love for them and their connection with the universal Church,” said Pratt. “It is an experience that seeks to bring the graces and gifts of the international WYD here to our own community.”
Allison Dolby, a member of the 2020-21 Diocesan Youth Leadership team that helped plan this year’s event, said, “I look forward to seeing all the youth come together for this event and just being open to God and everything that he has planned for us.” She continued, “I hope that this event moves hearts and people are just on fire for God.”
While this year’s celebration is a one-day event, it is planned in conjunction with “¡Viva! Your Encounter with Jesus – Night of Worship and Healing,” planned for 6-9 p.m. Aug. 27, also at Headwaters Park and featuring Father Torres, Marquez and Bishop Rhoades. All are welcome to attend the Spanish-language event, hear testimonies and participate in worship, adoration and confession. There is a $10 entrance fee for ages 15 and older; children are free. Food trucks will be on site from 5-8 p.m.
Registration for Diocesan World Youth Day is $60. For more information and to register, visit diocesefwsb.org/youth-conference.
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