By Tim Johnson
WARSAW — “Don’t be a robot.” As part of the Year of Faith, Faithfest took the theme of New Evangelization and encouraged participants to make their Catholicism a part of everyday life. The high school teens were encouraged to not just let the words of the Creed roll off one’s tongue, but to think of the words’ real meanings.
Over 300 high school teens and youth leaders from across the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend gathered at Lakeview Middle School in Warsaw on Nov. 18. The sheer number of fellow Catholic youths was reassuring to Vicki Harris, a sophomore at Warsaw High School and member of Sacred Heart Parish in Warsaw who was attending her second Faithfest. “I like coming to these retreats and the feeling you are not alone in your beliefs,” she said.
Harris’ Warsaw High School classmate and fellow parishioner Diane Wack was encouraged by her older siblings to attend Faithfest for the first time. She was not disappointed by her siblings’ encouragement. “I love the music of Popple,” she told Today’s Catholic.
The Catholic musical group Popple — consisting of Dan Harms and Kyle Heimann — entertained the high school students with their lively music and ice-breaking routines, but their music also carried a serious Catholic message for the retreatants. Popple also provided the liturgical music for the Mass with Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades.
In his homily, Bishop Rhoades spoke the need of the New Evangelization. Although the Church is alive in the United States, “it is not as alive as it should be,” the bishop noted.
For example, he said, over 70 million people identify their religion as Catholic. Of that number 17.5 million are weekly Mass participants. Another 20 million say they go to Mass occasionally. Thirty million or so only go to Mass on Christmas or Easter. “We have many who have grown lukewarm in the faith,” Bishop Rhoades said.
Bishop Rhoades also spoke about the Greek word “parousia” means “coming” or “arrival,” and in Christian terms — the Second Coming of Christ in power and glory. The Sunday readings spoke extensively of the end times.
The time of Christ’s return is known only to the Father, but Jesus elaborated that before His return there would be great distress and tribulation.
“We do know that there will be attacks by the evil one — by Satan,” Bishop Rhoades said. “And what we do know from Scripture is that the Church will pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers.”
Bishop Rhoades spoke of the antichrist, a situation when there will be a lot of religious deception, “that man and human beings will glorify themselves in place of God,” he said.
Some of the signs are prevalent now, Bishop Rhoades noted.
“Man is saying, ‘I am the ultimate. I decide what is good and evil,’” Bishop Rhoades said.
Christ will come and then the Church will enter the glory of the kingdom. “At the end, the kingdom will be fulfilled,” Bishop Rhoades said.
At the final judgment, there is the resurrection of our bodies, where our bodies will be resurrected with our souls.
“We should always have this mind,” Bishop Rhoades said. “There will be a judgment at the end of our lives and at the end of the world.”
“What we should be focused on is living our faith every day to the full,” he said.
After Mass, Bishop Rhoades returned to the auditorium to answer questions that were texted to him.
The first text said “please tell your friends Notre Dame is going to beat USC.” Wearing a Notre Dame sports cap, Bishop Rhoades said he was confident of that.
Students’ texts asked about death, how to resist sin, the difference between the Catholic Church and the community church, the bishop’s memorable moments, music, movies, and “what is the meaning of life.” The bishop summed it up in one word — “Christ.”
The texting session was meaningful to Samuel Schroedl, another Warsaw High School sophomore and Sacred Heart parishioner. “It’s kind of cool how people like the bishop use texting to bring people back to the faith.”
Mark Hart, the “Bible Geek” who is the executive vice president for Life Teen, offered the keynote talk before lunch and breakout sessions of the afternoon followed by XLT Eucharistic Adoration.
Hart entertained the Faithfest participants with a story about an airplane trip he once took that ended in an emergency landing. He told God he would go to Confession if he made it. When the plane landed in a small remote airport in New Mexico, a priest was sitting there. Hart poured out his hurt and sins to the priest.
It’s easy to go through the motions of Mass. Very seldom do people ask “why.” Why would God give us the Eucharist, Confession, the saints, His Word, Hart asked.
Hart said he didn’t ask the “why” question.
“At the end of the day, if you’re not asking ‘why,’ then you are missing something,” Hart said.
“A lot of you have people in your lives — your family, your friends — who don’t know Christ, and who would never go to something like this (Faithfest),” Hart said. “It takes courage.”
The diocesan Office of Youth Ministry coordinated the Faithfest, which is open to all high school students.
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