Be courageous, participants told at state conference

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youngadultconference-webBishop Dennis Sullivan, Father Jon Thomas and other participants from the Camden Diocese gather for a photo at the New Jersey Catholic Young Adult Conference in Piscataway, N.J., on Jan. 25.

Photo by Lois Dark

PISCATAWAY – Forty Catholic young adults from South Jersey came together here Jan. 25 with their peers from across the state for the New Jersey Catholic Young Adult Conference.
Held at the St. John Neumann Pastoral Center, the conference was a collaborative effort of the various Offices of Young Adult Ministry in all dioceses of the state of New Jersey to provide young adults with an opportunity to celebrate their Catholic identity.
The all-day event included a keynote address, workshops, opportunities for confession and adoration, and a closing Mass with bishops of New Jersey, including Camden’s own Bishop Dennis Sullivan. Throughout the day, worship band New Name provided musical entertainment.
Kicking off the conference was a keynote presentation from Marcel Quinones, outreach manager and volunteer liaison for Covenant House of New Jersey, which provides assistance to homeless youth.
As the theme for the conference was, “Be Courageous: Do Not Conform to the Standards of This Age,” Quinones urged the young adults packed into the auditorium to take their faith “out into the streets.”
Engaging in activities we’re not comfortable with “is the only way to grow,” he said. “Everyday God gives us an opportunity to bring our faith to others.”
“Be proud of what you believe in, and step out,” he said.
Quinones also emphasized the importance of “letting God lead our lives.”
“When things get tough, pray, and believe that God will show you the way,” he said.
Catechetical workshops were offered where young adults engaged with the New Jersey bishops.
Speaking on “The Lord’s Prayer: His Prayer. Our Prayer. The Best Prayer,” Bishop Sullivan provided background on The Our Father.
“We’re praying to the Father, as Jesus has revealed him,” Bishop Sullivan said. “When we pray, we experience the presence of God, and his mystery breaking through,” he said. “With the confidence of a child, we approach the approachable God.”
“Prayer puts us on fire to change ourselves and the world,” he said.
In other workshops, young adults were educated and enlightened in their faith, with topics covering the single life; Ignatian spirituality; Hispanic ministry; and time management.
Michael Laskey, director of Life and Justice Ministries for the Diocese of Camden, led a workshop, “Faith is Sweaty,” and encouraged young adults to get their hands dirty, to get out of their comfort zones, to help the vulnerable, and to share the church’s teaching on the call to justice.
Closing the spirited conference was a liturgy concelebrated by Bishop Sullivan; Bishop Paul G. Bootkoski of Metuchen; Bishop David M. O’Connell, of Trenton; and Auxiliary Bishop John W. Flesey of Newark.
Travelling the 90 minutes back to South Jersey after the event, attendees from the Camden Diocese expressed excitement about the conference, with renewed energy to continue sharing the faith in their communities.
“It was a tremendous success,” said Father Jon Thomas, parochial vicar of Christ Our Light Parish in Cherry Hill, who drove up to Piscataway with seven young adults from his parish.”
George Fuchs, a young adult from St. Rose of Lima in Haddon Heights, “loved the conference, and I would definitely go again. It helped me to renew my spirituality, to talk with other young adults about my faith.”