HARTFORD – The Cathedral of St. Joseph was brimming with the passion and energy of youth when nearly 700 teens attended the one-day Alive in Christ Youth Rally on Sunday, April 30.
Teens in grades eight through 12, arriving by the busload from points throughout the archdiocese, descended on the cathedral for a full day of high-energy activities designed to help them connect with Christ, embrace their faith and go forth in the world as Catholics.
The day’s events included Mass with Archbishop Leonard P. Blair, music and singing with the band Array of Hope, entertainment by two rapping Salesian brothers known as the Bosco Beats, vocational talks and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.
IGNITE High School Youth Ministry from St. Mary Parish in Simsbury helped run the days’ activities. Matt Locandro, a member of the IGNITE team, led the young people in prayer.
Laure Guibert, another member of IGNITE, advised the teens: “Try and get out of your comfort zone. Meet many people and pray.”
Father Jeffrey Gubbiotti, vocation director for the archdiocese, encouraged the youths to be open to God’s word throughout the day.
“God can use anything. It might be something somebody says, it might be a Scripture passage, it might be a song we’re singing,” he said. “God has a word of life for every one of us here, a word of encouragement, of challenge.”
During the Mass and homily, Archbishop Blair told the teens, “We are meant to be people on fire. We don’t accomplish it on our own; it comes to us through faith.”
The way to encounter Christ, he said, is through the Scriptures, the sacraments and the teachings of the Church, but most especially through the Eucharist.
The archbishop recalled the words of St. Peter, saying, “The risen Christ is not far away, but he’s right here at Mass, revealed for you.”
After the Mass, the youths headed for the lower cathedral where they were treated to music, videos, and a light show by Array of Hope, a band from New Jersey. Based on the three theological virtues of faith, hope and love, the show encouraged the teens to express the joy of their faith.
Another musical act of two religious brothers, the Bosco Beats, had the teens singing rap tunes with faith-filled messages.
Brother Steve also told how service in Costa Rica and Africa helped him to find meaning in his life and caused him to ask, “What if everything we’ve been taught is true?” He challenged the youths to ponder their unique purpose in life. “There’ll never be another you, but what are you going to do with this one life?”
Cathedral staffers were also on hand to wheel in 170 pizzas on dollies for the hungry teens, who took a break to eat on the lawn. Once outside, they mingled in fellowship, tossed balls and posed for group pictures.
Back inside, Miriam Hidalgo, archdiocesan director of youth and young adult ministry, and Ryan Hinton, director of the Office of Family Life, spoke about the vocation of marriage and family life, saying many would be called to this vocation.
Sister Francis Graham, a member of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Hamden, also shared the joy of the vocation to religious life. “I know God is enough for my heart,” she said. “Jesus’ love is so big it overflows from my heart and I can give it to others.”
Father Matthew Gworek, parochial vicar at St. Mary Church in Branford, told how his life changed direction while he was studying to be a music teacher.
“It occurred to me that I was happiest when I spent time at St. Thomas Church at UConn in Storrs,” he recalled. With that realization, he contacted the vocations director to begin exploring a call to the priesthood. “There are probably some of you who are called to that if you allow yourself to listen.”
The day ended with adoration and Benediction. The teens prayed to inspiring music and many later knelt at the foot of the altar when Father Gubbiotti invited them to “say yes to Jesus.”
“Lay claim to the blessing God has for you to send you forth,” he said.
After the event, Father James Shanley, rector of the cathedral, chatted informally with the youths and thanked the IGNITE team.
Several young people said the music and the opportunity for adoration were highlights of the rally.
Andy Kehoe of St. Mary’s in Simsbury said, “My favorite part was the concert when they were all dancing. I thought it was fun.”
Jennifer Ortiz of St. Louis Parish in West Haven said she most enjoyed the message-filled songs. “They were meaningful,” she explained.
Nalelhi Martinez of Most Holy Trinity Parish in Wallingford said she appreciated the time spent in adoration. “Just forgetting about everything,” she said, recalling the moment, “being able to talk to God, forgetting about all your worries.”
Owen Wollenberg of St. Mary’s in Simsbury also liked the adoration. “My favorite part was the last part,” he said. “It was just quiet. It’s just yourself and God.”
Alive in Christ was co-sponsored by the Office of Vocations and the Office of Education, Evangelization and Catechesis.