Two thousand teens from 65 parishes and schools came to Carnesecca Arena at St. John’s University, Jamaica, to experience this year’s Brooklyn Catholic Youth Day on Saturday, April 30. The day was filled with prayer, music, talks and fun opportunities for fellowship for junior high and high school teens from parishes around the diocese.
“I came to have an encounter with Jesus,” said Carlos Castillo, who was one of 18 people coming from St. Fortunata Church, East New York.
Isabella Zegarra had participated in last year’s youth day and had to share it with her youth group at Our Lady of the Angelus, Rego Park.
“I loved the music, the preaching, I loved the people and I loved that there were so many people that loved God as much as I do,” she said.
The day before, the diocese held a Brooklyn Catholic High School Rally in the same arena, with 560 participants representing 12 Catholic high schools.
Samantha Mulvey had an amazing experience at the Friday rally with her classmates from The Mary Louis Academy, Jamaica Estates, and decided to come back with the Martyrs Active Youth Organization (MAYO).
“I think sometimes people think youth don’t care about God,” she said, “but coming together with 2,000 people and all young people, you can really feel the spirit of God here.”
The following night, around 350 college students also had a chance to live out their faith at the second College Youth Night. Throughout the weekend, a total of 3,000 young people reflected on God’s mercy at the BCYD events.
From April 29 to May 1 the diocesan School of Evangelization’s Youth and Young Adult Faith Formation Office sponsored an entire weekend devoted to “Encountering the Joy of Christ’s Mercy.”
“The Holy Father called for this Year of Mercy and his whole pontificate is about encountering Christ,” said Paul Morisi, diocesan coordinator of youth and young adult faith formation. “We hope (the young people) encounter Christ through this day and be joyful in their faith.”
Christian singer Ike Ndolo and his band kicked off April 30’s Brooklyn Catholic Youth Day with worship songs. Then, Father Josephjude Gannon, pastor of St. Gerard Majella Church, Hollis, talked about the vocation to the priesthood and religious life. He encouraged the youth to talk to priests and sisters who were present.
This was followed by Mass with Auxiliary Bishop Paul Sanchez, who blessed the youth and those who volunteer their time to build up the faith community in Brooklyn and Queens.
In his homily, the bishop shared a story that illustrated the grace of walking with one another.
Just as “the disciples accompany one another so that God’s word might be heard,” he said, “us as Catholics, as Christians must do the same for others” to build the kingdom on this earth.
One way to walk with others in this Year of Mercy is to serve the poor and make those who are suffering happy, he added.
Speaker and musician Jackie Francois said that to be merciful is to relieve a heart that is in misery.
She shared how as a teenager she realized that “everything good she had came from God,” which helped her to reflect on her own selfishness, prompting change. She started attending daily Mass and reading the Bible (starting with the Gospels), which challenged her to be better.
“God crashed into my life and said, ‘Jackie, I want to show you real love,’” she said.
She also asked the hard questions about her faith and Church teachings, which made her love the Church and no longer want to be a 50-percent Catholic or 75-percent Catholic.
“When it comes to God’s team, He does not want you to ‘half it’ because He gave everything for you,” Francois said with an image of Christ as a backdrop.
She also talked about unconditional love, respect, chastity and marriage – adding that giving 100 percent of your love means trying to get your loved ones to heaven.
“God created us for real love, a love that last forever,” she said. “God is proposing His love to you, what is your answer going to be?”
Urius Martiel, a parishioner from St. Matthew Church, Crown Heights, said the keynote was exciting and helped people to be better men and women.
“She showed us how to be one with Christ and follow Jesus until the end, for eternity.”
Francois’ talk was followed by the opportunity to seek the sacrament of reconciliation while young people partook in eucharistic adoration.
Pearl Larnage from Holy Cross parish in Flatbush said that she felt united with the youth from different parishes. “I felt holy being here,” she said. “Youth can worship Jesus too; we just do it in our own way.”
“The best experience was (seeing) the Blessed Sacrament … You really felt like you just got to see Jesus.”
The annual Brooklyn Catholic Youth Day on April 30 was filled with prayer, music and fun. Catholic scholars at St. John’s University volunteered during the event.
Father Josephjude Gannon talked about the vocation to the priesthood and religious life.
A Mass with Auxiliary Bishop Paul Sanchez was one of the many faith-filled activities for the youth of Brooklyn and Queens during BCYD.
Speaker and musician Jackie Francois talked about this year's BCYD theme "Encounter the Joy of Christ Mercy."
Christian singer Ike Ndolo and his band provided lively music for Brooklyn Catholic Youth Day, including a concert at the end of the day.
BCYD was part of a three-day weekend dedicated to young Catholics that drew close to 3,000 participants.
(Photos by Maria-Pia Negro Chin)
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