HAMMONTON — Kortnie Cinkowski, 15, stepped up nervously in front of the audience here at the Saint Joseph elementary school gym on a recent Friday evening, gripped the microphone and shared her “three minutes of power.”
For the 180 seconds, there wasn’t a dry eye among the youth and adults as she spoke for a minute each on her personal struggle of being bullied, how God led her through the tough times, and what she is grateful for.
Finishing up, Cinkowski was soon encouraged with a hug from Justin Fatica, the national Catholic speaker who drew the 300 people in attendance here.
Addressing those in the plastic chairs and bleachers, Fatica implored them that “if you know what Kortnie has been through, stand up and give her a hug.”
One by one, men and women, young and old, stood in line to bring comfort to Kortnie and, in turn, find their own healing.
“You’re amazing,” Fatica told Kortnie in affirmation, and then called on the audience to do the same.
“You’re amazing!” soon echoed off the concrete walls and scoreboard.
So it went on Oct. 28, as men and women of all ages shared their three minutes of power. Be it a struggle with an addiction, or a difficult relationship, all were embraced and a community of lasting hope was created.
Justin Fatica, executive director of Hard as Nails Ministries, Inc., brought his passion and inspired message of faith, hope and love to youth and families here as a guest of Saint Mary of Mount Carmel Parish.
“You’re amazing, not for what they have done, but for who you are in the eyes of God,” he told the audience.
“This recognition of who you are, your baptismal calling, is the first step in neutralizing all of the loneliness, despair, suffering and loss you have experienced. There’s grace in the pain we’ve been through. We share our struggles to help others understand their dignity and God’s love for all of us,” Fatica stressed.
For Kortnie, the opportunity to share her story, be healed, and heal others was life-changing, and has drawn her closer to God.
“I’m going to start reading the Bible, and praying the rosary,” she said.
Mother and daughter Karen and Rachel Hill, both from Williamstown, vowed to spread Fatica’s message.
“I wish I had brought my three other children,” Karen remarked, while 22- year-old Rachel believed that “everyone needs to hear this. I would come from anywhere to hear him.”
Kim Fahy, youth minister at Saint Mary of Mount Carmel, organized a dinner gathering before the event, between Fatica and his four youth missionaries touring with him, and her youth leaders. Throughout the evening, she and the parish youth proudly wore shirts emblazoned with Fatica’s reminder that “You’re Amazing.”
“Whatever you are going through, you are not alone,” she said, adding that the parish is hoping to bring Justin Fatica and his Hard as Nails Ministry, back next year to inspire more of the South Jersey faithful.
“He brought us together in our pain,” she said.
For more information on the Saint Mary of Mount Carmel, Hammonton youth group, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org