By Denise Federow
WARSAW — From the keynote speaker to the breakout sessions, high-school teens received affirmation time and again that Jesus Christ is the Way and God has abundant love for them.
Frankie and the Holy Rollers got the teens on their feet singing and clapping to high-energy worship music to kick off this year’s Faithfest held at Lakeview Middle School in Warsaw on Oct. 23.
Dominican Father Anthony Giombrone gave the keynote speech.
He spoke on the theme and posed the questions many ask — is Jesus the way or a way? Is He the truth or an opinion? He spoke of the difference between dysfunctional diversity and healthy diversity.
“If there is nothing in common there can be no community, but the Catholic version of diversity is broad and universal as possible. To be Catholic is to be cosmic,” he said.
Father Giombrone said Protestants have an invisible unity; the Orthodox Church is tribal because it is as much about the ethnicity as it is their Christianity, but to be Roman Catholic is to be universal.
“The whole world and all its diversity is brought together in a single communion,” he said.
Jesus is the Way because Jesus is the bridge that carries all to God. He reminded the teens that before Christianity was named it was simply called The Way. People may say you can’t impose your faith on me and while that’s true, “It’s faith in a fact — Jesus is not an imaginary friend, the Resurrection is not an idea, it’s an event with witnesses,” he said.
“Some truths demand a decision, Jesus refuses to be a matter of indifference,” Father Giombrone said.
Sister Mary Vianney Gru spoke to the teens about salvation history, titling it “The Adventure Continues.” She said it was “a cosmic love story — the story of God’s love for us in seven sequels.”
She reviewed the covenants God made with Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, the prophets and then the ultimate covenant between Jesus and all Christians.
Franciscan Father David Mary Engo offered a session titled, “Praised by Christ Jesus.” To have a relationship with God one has to understand God — God is love — so one needs to know what love is and that it is 100 percent selfless.
He used a lighter flame to demonstrate the Holy Trinity — showing that flame also had light and heat. Three distinct properties that are all in one but cannot be separated. God the Father is the flame, God the Son is the light and the Holy Spirit is the heat.
“When you lose sight of the truth of the Trinity, you lose sight of Jesus,” Father Engo said. “Every family was intended to be the image of the Holy Trinity.”
Sarah Hill, youth minister at St. Vincent de Paul in Fort Wayne, conducted a session titled “Moral Therapeutic Deism.” Using clips from television shows she showed the Hollywood media has watered down Christianity.
Hill spoke of her session: Moral — just be a good person; therapeutic — there are lots of religions so just pick the one that makes you feel good, and Deism — we don’t really need God unless our life is in chaos and then He may or may not care about you. She also called it “Whatever-ism”.
“But it is important to know what you believe and to know God wants to be involved and included in your life,” she said.
“People may say what we believe is our opinion, but opinion is not the same as truth — truth does exist. Whether you agree with it or not doesn’t change the truth,” she said.
Hill offered these steps to counter “Whatever-ism.”
• Keep learning about the Truth — don’t settle; ask the deep questions — questions are good, they show you care.
• Go to the sacraments to experience the Truth — you’ll understand them more, but the Church doesn’t make you wait until you understand completely — the grace is in the sacrament, the hope is you’ll continue to learn.
• Take time to reflect on what you think and why.
• Trust the Catholic Church even when you don’t understand it all yet.
• Bring Jesus back into conversation — take strength from Him, be a witness to the Truth.
High tech evangelization
Little iApps, the small South Bend company that created “Confession: A Roman Catholic App,” made a presentation with company reps Ryan Kreager, Patrick Leinen and Chip Leinen. They urged the students to fully participate in the new media — blogging, podcasting, phone apps, Twitter, etc. — using their gifts for God.
Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades then engaged the students in a “Text the Bishop” session.
Bishop Rhoades took the stage with his cell phone, from which he selected more than a dozen questions texted to him by the students. The students queried the bishop on his favorites — church in the diocese, color, activity in his role as bishop — as well as on topics like the bishop selection process, same-sex marriage, the holiness of the bishop compared to others, the large number of Christian churches different from the Catholic Church, how to show gratitude, service opportunities for teens and comparisons of abortion and the Holocaust.
The day concluded with Bishop Rhoades celebrating Mass. Father Engo concelebrated and Deacon Mel Tardy assisted.
In his homily, Bishop Rhoades explained in greater depth the Gospel reading, about how Jesus had answered the Pharisees’ question regarding which was the greatest commandment.
Bishop Rhoades showed how Jesus’ answer to “Love God …” was represented in the first three of the Ten Commandments from the Old Testament, and how to “Love your neighbor …” was represented in the last seven of the Ten Commandments.
Though admitting that these two directives to love are certainly not easy, Bishop Rhoades encouraged the students to love deeply in both of these ways, employing the supernatural help, or grace, that flows from Holy Communion, the sacrament of love.
Bishop Rhoades identified loving God and loving one another as central to the Christian life, as modeled by the saints, and leading to happiness, joy and peace. Following Mass, the bishop and students reflected in reverent prayer during a time of Eucharistic Adoration, followed by Benediction.
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