By Kay Cozad
FORT WAYNE — Homestead High School was the place to be for Catholic teens on Sunday Sept. 27. The public high school loaned its generous space to the annual Faithfest for youth, sponsored by the Office of Youth Ministry.
Around 350 teens and their parish youth ministers and chaperones converged on the high school in Southwest Allen County in early morning to register for the fest and enjoy worship music by the local band Christian band Frankie and the Holy Rollers. The theme for this year’s Faithfest was “Chosen.”
Mass, celebrated by Bishop John M. D’Arcy, began the full-day retreat for the teens who traveled from 35 different parishes from across the diocese to attend. In his homily the bishop said youth was a time given by God in which to search for answers to life’s basic questions and to find love. He reminded the teens that the Eucharist is central to youth. “It is not you seeking Christ, but Christ seeking you,” he said. In the Eucharist, Christ “gave himself for your holiness … Do you know him?” he asked.
After acknowledging the gift of vocations and the seminarians and sisters who were present to share the day, the bishop said, “This day is so you can make your life something beautiful for God.”
Following Mass the bishop held a question-answer session for all the teens. Questions ranged from “What will you do when you retire?” to “What can you do for a friend who says he doesn’t believe in God, because his life has been so difficult?” Bishop D’Arcy’s answers were thoughtful, thorough and sometimes humorous. When asked if he had ever attended a Vatican meeting he responded, “Yes, but this is more fun.”
One young man from Sacred Heart Parish in Warsaw asked the bishop what he thought the toughest challenge was for Catholic teens in today’s society. The bishop offered the question back to the teen, who answered, “Standing up for what we believe in.” Bishop D’Arcy simply replied, “I don’t think I can improve on that answer.”
Of the value of the Q-and-A session Nikkii Nyers from St. Pius X Parish in Granger said, “I really liked it. It was informative. I found out some things I didn’t know.”
Julia Beebe of Antioch in Mishawaka agreed and added, “The bishop is friendly and youth oriented. And he’s funny!”
The teens were then directed to two small group session, with topics including vocations, man prayer, secret life of the Catholic teen and more. Many of the sessions were presented by seminarians or sisters.
Following lunch the faithful teens took advantage of personal time to visit the eucharistic adoration chapel to pray or receive the sacrament of reconciliation provided by several available priests. A faith expo on site offered Catholic college booths as well as ministry information, interactive games played with the sisters and more.
Later the youth reconvened en masse in the auditorium to watch a clever video spoof on how to develop a faithfest. The standing ovation was evidence of the cheering crowd’s approval. And the excitement continued when Father Norman Fischer, the keynote speaker from the diocese of Lexington, Ky, opened with a reggae tune that brought the crowd to its feet.
The priest’s wit and clear message on being chosen by God gave evidence to his deeply felt faith. “We are chosen for a unique purpose,” he told the attentive youth. “Not for ourselves, it’s for God’s glory and his kingdom.” After sharing his own vocation story, he reminded the teens that “God sees past our weakness. We are chosen for greatness, for holiness.”
After sharing another worship song, Father Fischer asked all who had thought of a vocation to come to the front for a special blessing. Over 50 faith-filled teens gathered with arms entwined and heads bowed low to receive the spirit-led blessing given by the priest, seminarians, sisters, youth ministers and other youth.
The day-long retreat closed with a small group connection and Benediction. And the energized teens found three way home.
Of the faithfest experience Katie Garcia from St. Monica Parish in Mishawaka spoke for many when she said, “I enjoyed it. It was awesome to be around tons of other teens who are enthusiastic about their faith.”
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