Scores of Catholics filled the streets around St. Athanasius Church, Bensonhurst, as they celebrated a bilingual night of adoration June 19.
The youth event, titled “Unity.Unidad,” marked the first time a bilingual youth celebration of this magnitude took place, said Natasha Bisbal, Hispanic Relations Manager at DeSales Media Group and one of the emcees. The multi-cultural components of the evening highlighted the beauty of Christian unity.
“Let’s enjoy ourselves because we are one great community in our God Jesus Christ,” said Msgr. David Cassato, pastor.
The celebration featured Christian hip-hop and rock, rides, food, the opportunity for confession and a laser light show and fireworks. Videos in English and Spanish showed religious and celebrities encouraging youths to follow Christ.
The evening’s special guests included motivational speaker Joe Manno, Father Agustino Torres, C.F.R., and Catholic singer-songwriter Alverlis and the “Kingdom Builders.”
Auxiliary Bishop Octavio Cisneros prepared the crowd for the most important moment of the night: eucharistic adoration.
“We are going to bring right into the street Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who shines for everyone,” he said. “And that Son of God unites us. …We are no longer Italians, or Caribbean or Africans.
“We are no longer from many parts of the world,” he said. “When we look at Jesus, He brings unity in all of us. … That’s the meaning of communion, a common union. The same Jesus that is in me is in each and every one of you.”
The event drew around 3,000, according to police. Over 50 volunteers helped plan the event, while parishioners coordinated food stands and served during adoration.
Adolfo Romero, an altar server at St. Athanasius, said events like this reconnect Catholics with their faith.
“I think it is important for young people to come to these events because people these days are not seeing how Jesus takes care of us,” he said.
Sandra Bravo, altar server coordinator, said the night of adoration proved that “God is everywhere, including fun things.”
The night culminated as the church’s facade came to life during a 3D light show.
“It was just a beautiful experience,” said Kevin Thornton, who graduated from St. Athanasius in 1976. “This night made me feel really good about being a Catholic.”
More than an event, organizers hope that “Unity.Unidad” becomes a movement and continues on, said Craig Tubiolo, parishioner and production manager at DeSales Media Group.
“We are taking evangelization and using technology to tell the story of faith,” Tubiolo said. “People might come for the light show, but they also get to hear about the traditions of the Church.”
One in Christ
The primary goal was to celebrate being united in the Christian spirit.
This message resonated with Maria Hernandez, a young adult from the Jornada movement at St. Brigid Church, Bushwick.
“We are not just from one parish. We share the same love for Christ,” she said. “When we come together, we are a family.”
Jornadistas from Brooklyn and Queens came to the event to glorify God and waited earnestly for eucharistic adoration.
“I love experiencing God in many ways,” said Yeokuss Videas, from St. Andrew the Apostle Church, Bay Ridge. “This is so different; we are all outside. We are showing this community around us that we are here and that we really believe in Jesus Christ.”
During the highlight of the evening, participants joined Bishop Cisneros and other priests in the adoration of the Holy Eucharist. Afterward, petitions were prayed in different languages.
“This was a blessed night,” said Karla Lema, a teen who recently joined her church’s prayer group.
Joseph Alcena, a youth group member at St. Mark parish, Sheepshead Bay, came to be closer to God and was not disappointed.
“I was home having a good time and then I came here. Not for me, but for God,” he said. “I learned from tonight that even though we are small people, we could make a difference in people’s lives.”
During his talk, Manno retold King David’s fight against Goliath and posed the question, “Do you know God or do you only know of Him?”
“Our God is on our side, but if you just know of Him, you don’t know” this, he said.
Manno motivated youths to stay true to themselves.
“When God calls you to do something in your life, he doesn’t expect you to do it in somebody else’s clothes, He wants you just the way you are,” he said. “You are not a mistake; God doesn’t make mistakes.”
Father Torres asked attendees to be joyful and always pray.
“If you don’t know what to do, pray to Him. If there are difficulties in your life, pray to Him,” he said in Spanish. “It is because of the cross that we can be joyous. We know Jesus Christ is victorious … Pray continuously and that way we will bring this joy to the streets.”
Kenny Wodzanowski, youth minister and emcee, said the night was an example of the Church’s potential when it unites “for a celebration of life, of culture, of community and ultimately of faith.”
“Hopefully, tonight young and old witnessed what they can bring to the church,” Wodzanowski said. “Pope Francis said it too, we have to be a joyful, happy, welcoming church.”
The event was in part sponsored by DeSales Media Group, the parent company of The Tablet.