BLOOMFIELD – Archbishop Leonard P. Blair closed another successful Catholic Youth Spectacular Sept. 20 with a music-filled Mass and a homily that pointed to Jesus as “the way, the right way to live, the right way to happiness, to fulfillment, to personal and world peace.”
The event was held at the Archdiocesan Center at St. Thomas Seminary and included a scavenger hunt, concessions, reconciliation, pro-life keynote speaker Gloria Purvis, musical entertainment, outdoor rosary, workshops, lunch, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and more. Among the more than 50 vendors were the archdiocesan Office of Catholic Social Justice, Holy Family Retreat Center, a vocation tent and more. The theme was “Scripture Alive! Encounter, Pray, Live the Word.” It was sponsored by the Office of Religious Education and Evangelization (OREE).
Shawnee Baldwin, OREE’s coordinator of youth and young adult ministry, said almost 900 young Catholics from 38 parishes attended, many of them fulfilling confirmation class requirements.
Archbishop Blair said that he, Auxiliary Bishop Christie A. Macaluso and Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Peter A. Rosazza have been called to be “good shepherds to the people entrusted to our care, but there’s a special place in our hearts for all of you, the youngest members of our archdiocese. We are very concerned about you.”
He remarked on the themes of jealousy and ambition in the readings from Wisdom, James and the Gospel of Mark. The early Christians, he said, described their faith as “the way,” by which they meant more than a set of rules or beliefs, a code of conduct or a philosophy. “Christianity before all else was centered on the person, because the way and the truth and the life is none other than our Lord Jesus Christ,” he said.
Jesus, he said, “is that gentle, patient and innocent person in the first reading who was reviled and tortured and put to death for the sins of the world. And in the Gospel, Jesus tells us that his way is the way of the cross, and it has to be our way too.”
Speaking of his upcoming trip to Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia, he said, “You’ve asked me for the scavenger hunt, ‘What do I expect, what do I hope for from a visit from Pope Francis?’ Well, he’s not a politician, but he’s been invited to speak to Congress. Pope Francis is not a diplomat, but he is going to be addressing the United Nations, and I’m told that most of the world leaders are coming for that. Many, many people are looking forward, as we are, to his visit with great interest. And why is it so? And my answer would be, in light of today’s readings, because people are looking for the way.”
Earlier, Nicole Robitaille, of St. Bridget School in Manchester, was selling Sandy Candy, tubes of colored sugar that are used to create edible art. “The funds that we raise are going to be used to help send kids to the Catholic Youth Conference in Indianapolis later in the year,” she said.
Natalie Ryan, a parish development officer for Cross Catholic Outreach, was handing out literature about her group’s mission to provide programs for parishes and Catholic schools, “to teach the youth and teach people in the parish about fulfilling the right commission that Christ calls us to, to go out and baptize nations and bring them the saving knowledge of him.”
Peter Buck, representing Equal Exchange, said, “This is an opportunity for Catholic youth to live their faith by putting their money where their faith is. It’s a chance to buy directly from our brothers and sisters, our neighbors who are trying and struggling to make a living in Central America, South America, Africa and Asia and who are trying to have a business growing coffee or tea or cacao for chocolate and get a fair, stable price for it.”
Father Anthony Smith addressed the young people about vocations.
“Before you were even born, God had a plan for your life, and he’s going to be calling each and every one of you to use the gifts that you have, to use the talents that you have, to be who you are, to do something special with your lives,” he said. “You are precious; you are needed; you are valued. The church needs each and every one of you.”
Sophia Zbell, a sophomore from East Catholic High School in Manchester, said, “I am enjoying it. We went to adoration, which was really, really nice because I’m very Christian. I’ve been Catholic all my life, going to Catholic schools.... This is a great way of expressing more of my faith and being closer to God, because I don’t really always talk to God as much as I should. But being here really helps me talk to him more.”
Her friend and confirmation classmate at St. James Parish in Manchester, Julia Lambert, said, “I really liked [musical group] Array of Hope, because I like to hear their songs. They sing Christian songs about faith, hope and love.”
Brian Michaud, a student at Manchester High School, said, “We went into the chapel for adoration. It’s a beautiful place.… I love being Catholic, I love my faith, and I love looking into it even further.”
His classmate Colby Sweeney said, “The chapel is a beautiful place and especially the stained-glass windows. I’m looking forward to learning more about God because it’s an endless experience.”
Father Christopher M. Tiano, OREE director, said, “One of the things that strikes me every time I come to the Youth Spectacular is that our young people are just so alive in Jesus Christ, and I have great hope for the Catholic Church.”