Diocesan Youth Congress draws hundreds


youthcongress-webPhotos by James A. McBride










Joe Viecelli, Kyle Hance, Karrie Davis and Hannah Borochaner pose for a photo at the Diocesan Youth Congress, held at St. Simon Stock Parish, Berlin, on March  24.



BERLIN — On Sunday, March 24, 180 youth and 90 adults, from 30 diocesan schools and parishes, with “Faith Alive,” took part in the Diocesan Youth Congress at St. Simon Stock Parish here.

Sponsored by the Office of Lifelong Faith Formation, Youth, Young Adult and Campus Ministries of the Diocese of Camden, the day-long event, with the theme “Faith Alive!” featured keynote speaker Ansel Augustine, workshops and witness sessions, and concluded with Mass with Bishop Dennis Sullivan.

The program began in the church, with the St. Simon Stock youth group performing their version of the stations of the cross, “Follow Me,” utilizing lighting and sound effects for a dramatic presentation of the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus.

Next, Ansel Augustine, coordinator for Black Youth and Young Adult Ministry in the Archdiocese of New Orleans, spoke to the youth in a dynamic performance that played off the football team New Orleans Saints, and the fans that follow them, “Who Dat Nation.”

“Who Dat?” Augustine asked the youth.

“He Dat!” the youth responded.

“Jesus,” Augustine said.

“Christ!” the youth shouted.

Augustine said he once was involved with a record company, producing music, but when he found the Lord, he gave all his “bling bling to the King King.”

The keynote speaker also reminded the youth of Jesus’ ever-abiding care, and challenged them to live their lives for him. “He saved me,” Augustine said.  “Never forget whose you are.”

“Bottom line, he loves you.”

Breakout sessions later in the day had participants hear from speakers on such topics as male spirituality, female spirituality, social justice, living an authentic Christian life, and making good decisions.

In the witness sessions, youth heard  testimony from youth and adult speakers on how they live out their own Catholic faith.

At the 6:15 p.m. Mass which concluded the day, Bishop Dennis Sullivan, in his homily, commented on Luke’s account of Jesus’ passion.

“Luke was the writer of gentleness,” the bishop told the youth, noting that Luke records Jesus saying  “Father, forgive them,” during his passion.

“Jesus calls us to be gentle Christians,” the bishop said. “He reaches out to you and me, so we can be brought into his love, forgiveness and mercy.”

Youth and their leaders said they left Berlin with their faith more alive than before.

“The day was really amazing,” said Nikki Varalli, Youth Life team leader for Infant Jesus Parish in Woodbury Heights. “It was a great experience. I learned how to be a genuine Christian.”

Jess Fahy, Infant Jesus youth minister, called the day “super important, for young people to see other young people, who are seeking to grow in relationship with Christ and the Church.”