On a recent sunny Sunday, 2,000 youth from the state of New Jersey converged at Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, for a day of coasters, cotton candy and communion.
The 10th annual Catholic Youth Rally included youth and parish youth ministers from throughout New Jersey. As it was its turn in the rotation, the Diocese of Camden hosted the day, with Bishop Dennis Sullivan celebrating the closing Mass at 6 p.m. in the park’s Plymouth Rock Arena.
Greg Coogan, director of Youth Ministry for the Diocese of Camden, noted that the day’s emphasis was “highlighting youth leadership,” adding that over 90 youth from South Jersey participated in the rally liturgy, taking on roles such as planning the day beforehand, or during the Mass as ushers, lectors, greeters and music ministers.
In his homily, Bishop Sullivan challenged the youth to be disciples of the world.
Lucia Marone is the director of the Youth Ensemble at Christ the Good Shepherd Parish in Vineland, with 17 grade school youth to college youth participating in monthly Masses as vocalists and musicians.
During the liturgy at the rally, her ensemble, along with youth from Christ Our Light, Cherry Hill; Our Lady of the Lakes, Collings Lakes; Holy Cross, Bridgeton; and Paul VI High School in Haddon Township, led the gathered in music.
The group “is the largest group we’ve played for,” Marone said of the three-year old ensemble. “But they were excited to play for Bishop Sullivan.”
Catching up with her youth later that week, she saw the impact the event had on them. “The youth said that they went back to school, and classmates that they didn’t know were Catholic were coming up to them saying ‘Hey, I saw you playing at Mass on Sunday at Six Flags!’ The youth learned more about their school community.”
The opening session in the morning featured Carolyn Gambale-Dirkes, who encouraged youth to push themselves relationally, spiritually and physically.