Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

Sunday, February 25, 2018

CYS 5743A photo gallery from the 2012 Catholic Youth Spectacular can be found by clicking here.

BLOOMFIELD – For seven years in a row, young people from St. Mary, Star of the Sea Parish in Unionville have gone to the Catholic Youth Spectacular, sponsored since 2006 by the Office of Religious Education (ORE) of the Archdiocese of Hartford. On Sept. 30, nine youths aged 13-16 from the parish took part, guided by Amanda McCaffrey, youth coordinator.

“They get really excited for the rest of the year after this,” Ms. McCaffrey said as the group arrived at the Archdiocesan Center at St. Thomas Seminary, where the event has been held for the past three years. “They find out a lot of new things about their faith, and they really enjoy coming because they have fun.”

Fun is the not-so-secret ingredient in the afternoon-long, open-air event, which this year drew about 1,000 young people from about 40 parishes in the archdiocese. Events included face painting; a treasure hunt, talent show and surprise flash mob; and entertainment from Justin Dery’s band Glorify, singer Vince Nims and emcee Travis Moran.

This year’s theme, “Sacraments: God’s Enduring Treasures, Celebrations of Grace,” was a reminder that the underlying reason for the event was to deepen the faith of participants. In addition to having fun, youngsters were invited to visit displays by Catholic Relief Services, Catholic Scouting, religious orders, Catholic Charities and others. Many also took advantage of the sacrament of reconciliation. All attended a Mass celebrated by Archbishop Henry J. Mansell.

Walter Hidalgo, a lay youth minister, sold copies of his book, Beyond the Four Walls: The Rising Ministry and Spirituality of Hip-Hop, and also took part in the talent show. The co-founder of the HnS Movement (Hip Hop & Spirituality), he told the Transcript, “What we do is expose the general public to artists and organizations that utilize the culture for social transformation and spiritual development, through workshops, through events, through a variety of things educationally.”

Lynn Campbell, executive director of the archdiocese’s Office of Catholic Social Justice Ministry, manned a display that drew attention to the evils of human trafficking. Dennis Fisher and Ted Miles of Catholic Relief Services displayed a huge blow-up plastic globe of the world to help youngsters visualize how CRS distributes aid throughout the world. Anne Daino, of St. Mary, Star of the Sea Parish in Unionville, showed off “Gospel Graffiti,” inspirational sidewalk messages in colored chalk that youngsters created.

“We named this ‘This Sidewalk Talks,’ because it’s going to speak to everybody that walks through here today,” Ms. Daino said.

Mr. Moran invited parish groups to come forward with donations of shoes, food and other items.

Shawnee Baldwin, youth coordinator at the ORE and organizer of the event, said later that three boxes of donated food and “a carload” of clothing were later delivered to South Park Inn and Shelter in Hartford.

The California-based Mr. Nims was the keynote entertainer. He is billed as “the Roamin’ Catholic Banana Guy” because he sings a humorous song about bananas and other fruit being sweet, “but nothing can beat the sweet love of God.”

He warmed up the crowd of youngsters and adults by having them perform silly dance steps and play games with random partners. Even the clergy got caught up in the fun, including Archbishop Mansell, Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Peter A. Rosazza, Auxiliary Bishop Christie A. Macaluso, vicar for priests Msgr. Gerard P. Schmitz, ORE director Msgr. Michael J. Motta, Office of Black Catholic Ministries director Deacon Arthur Miller and others.

Mr. Nims had the crowd laughing when he said, “Turn to your neighbor, any neighbor that you like, look them deep in the eye – deeper – and say, ‘You are a sacrament. You are God's enduring treasure. You are a celebration of grace. And, you're having a nice hair day.’”

He later told the Transcript, “There's nothing more important than nurturing the faith of our young people. I mean, it really is the foundation of the Church. So for me, it’s worth all of the energy and time that goes into these kinds of events. It gives kids a different window of the Church, another way to see what the Church is like.”

Mr. Moran said Ms. Baldwin asked him to emcee the event when they both attended a retreat at Holy Family Monastery in West Hartford this past summer. “She said that I should come and help out here. I found out a week ago how monumentally awesome it is. I got the script an hour before it started today, and I asked the Holy Spirit and he kind of came in and did his work.”

He said he is studying physical therapy at Quinnipiac University and is considering a call to the priesthood.

As the group prepared to break for lunch, clouds rolled in and a few sprinkles fell, while Mr. Nims sang, “Let It Rain.” Despite the brief shower, several hundred youngsters gathered in the flagpole area in front of the seminary and spelled out the word “GRACE.” As soon as the letters were formed, the sun reappeared.