Immaculate Conception Center, Douglaston, hosted nearly 750 youth from all over the diocese as the final installment of this year’s Brooklyn Catholic Youth Day event.
“I think it energizes them to come together and be singing and to be laughing and to be sharing meals together,” said Auxiliary Bishop Neil E. Tiedemann. “There’s a certain amount of camaraderie and joy and happiness and here we are just a few days away from Easter and they’re all during this period of Lent getting a little flavor of what this Resurrection is going to be.”
Sharing faith and fun as a community was the first activity to get the teens comfortable with each other since they would be spending most of the day in a chapel filled with new faces. Teenagers had to get up close and personal with strangers as the games began with a scavenger hunt. They had to take it upon themselves to get items that the speaker requested – from socks of different colors, to sneakers of different brands – and then place them in the center of the sanctuary.
It was a day that invited them to be who they truly were, as they danced to praise and worship songs or listened to two Salesian Brothers of Don Bosco rap on stage or the more solemn moments of Mass, Eucharistic Adoration and Reconciliation.
Reluctantly accepting the invitation of his mother to attend was first-timer Keson Edwards, a junior from Boys and Girls H.S. in Bedford-Stuyvesant.
“I wanted to experience something new,” said Edwards, a parishioner from St. Matthew, Crown Heights. “I didn’t want it to be boring, like I always stay open to new stuff. Halfway through I was surprised because I thought I would be sleeping, bored, but I was participating, laughing, it was fun.” He said his biggest takeaway from the day was that “there’s no obstacle that you can face that God isn’t always with you.”
The event was spread over a Friday evening for Catholic high schools and Saturday for all parishes and schools. Keynote speakers from Array of Hope – Te Deum Ministries challenged the teens on their knowledge of the Ten Commandments. The enthusiastic youngsters held papers with the Commandments and then had to put them in the order they appear in the Bible. Even if their answers weren’t perfect, the message of faith, hope and love reminded the young minds to love God with their whole heart and to not believe lies about themselves.
“I think it really depends on the kind of person you are,” said seventh-grader Barbara Naranjo who attends St. Anselm Catholic Academy, Bay Ridge, “because I’m a really open person to many of my friends. I laugh with them, I joke with them and that’s what God wants me to be. Other people, they have two faces. They say I’m this person with my friends, but I’m another person with these kind of people, my family. So I don’t really get it, God wants us to be who we want to be and that’s what we need to show in this world today.”
Called To Love
Honing in on the challenge to love God, self and others was the message of the homily by the diocese’s vocations director, Father Sean Suckiel.
“Once we see God and encounter Him, our life changes forever, our lives change for the better,” said Father Suckiel, “and that’s our call today as young people. Pope Francis says when we go to Church on Sundays, we shouldn’t look miserable, we shouldn’t look like we’re going to a wake, no, when we go to Church we encounter someone so real and so personal.
“Let us pray at this Mass that God will give us the wisdom not to see ourselves the way we view ourselves to be, but to see ourselves the way God sees us. If we are to see ourselves differently through the lens and heart of God that bleeds upon a cross for us, we’re called to be different and that’s the call to discipleship. Take that leap of faith and trust in God. He’s always there to challenge us to be our best.”