CUMBERLAND — On Saturday, Sept. 10, the annual Diocesan Youth Day was held at Our Lady of Fatima Church in Cumberland. The event was attended by approximately 150 high school and college-aged youths from parishes throughout the state.
The title for this year’s theme was “I am,” taken from the “I am” teachings of Jesus in the Gospel of John.
“We’re very excited to be here. This is a very special event,” said Louise Dussault, director of diocesan Catholic Youth Ministry, who organized the day’s program along with other ministry leaders.
“Events like this give me hope. It reassures me that young people are very interested in their relationship with God,” Dussault said.
The day’s events began with a short prayer service and a series of ice breaking activities in the parish hall before a performance of praise and worship music by Catholic musician Justin Dery and his band Summit.
Dery’s music performance was followed by his talk on this year’s theme.
Dery asserted that the Church has a very well-defined sense of the identity of Christ, and that the faithful’s sense of self-identity is something derived not from their own successes or worldly pursuits, but from their relationship with Christ.
Yet, he said, this element of the faithful’s sense of self-identity is something that ultimately expresses itself in mission and in a more Christ-like way of life.
“If our identity of who we are – I am a child of God – if that’s where it stops,” Dery said, “you’re in trouble, because, as a child of God…we are called to go out.”
“We’re called to greatness beyond just saying ‘Oh, do you love Jesus? I love Jesus, too. Have a great life.’ We are called to relationship, and that faith as a child of God blossoms into those works,” he continued, noting that this is something that should motivate us for greater holiness.
Derry went on to speak of the example of notable young people in Church history who were renowned for their high level of holiness, such as the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Apostle John, and Blessed Jose Sanchez del Rio.
Dery’s talk was followed by lunch on the field adjacent to the church. During this time, those in attendance socialized and played sports, while priests were present at stations scattered throughout the parish grounds offering the Sacrament of Penance to those in attendance.
Following Dery’s presentation, one of the youth participants, Shane, a parishioner at Our Lady of Fatima, said he felt energized by the keynote speaker’s presentation.
“I think it’s awesome. It’s phenomenal,” he said. “Our guest speaker today was amazing. I’m really excited for the rest of the day.”
Lunch was followed by activities in which attendees could interact with the priests, seminarians and religious present.
“It’s a great sized group, and a good opportunity to mingle and get to know each other better,” said Father Emanuel Vasconcelos, O.F.M. Conv. “Father Manny,” as he is widely known, is a member of the Order of Franciscans Conventual, and is a vocations director from Washington, D.C.
“It’s such an important thing to come together,” Father Manny said, “because we need each other, to support each other in the faith. Friends in the faith are the strongest friends you can have.”
Several religious Sisters also participated in the day’s events.
“For the youth, it’s very good once and a while to gather and build up their faith,” said Sister of the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament Linsa Neendukunnel, who is based at St. James and St. Ambrose parishes.
“I think it’s, thus far, very well done,” said Sister Mary John, C.S.S.F. “I really applaud the people who took the time, the effort, and the energy to put this affair together.” Sister Mary John is a member of the Congregation of the Sister of St. Felix of Cantalice, also known as the Felician Sisters, a branch of the Franciscan order founded in the mid-19th century and named after the famous 16th century Italian Capuchin St. Felix of Cantalice. Sister Mary John is also stationed at St. Adalbert’s parish in Providence.
In the afternoon, participants broke into smaller groups and attended one of three workshops held at the parish that discussed various spiritual and theological topics. One of these was led by Deacon Greg Albanese, and was titled “Jesus, the Healer.” Simultaneous with this workshop was another titled, “Do You Know the Way?” led by Jim Flanagan, director of Youth Ministry at Holy Name parish in West Roxbury, Massachusetts, and “Hope – Our Anchor in the Waves,” led by Sarah Pierini and Brendan Kearns, two Catholic speakers and students at URI.
The workshops were followed by Holy Mass, celebrated by Msgr. Albert Kenney, Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia of the Diocese of Providence.
“We thank God that you have committed yourself to being disciples of the Lord,” Msgr. Kenney said in his homily.
During the announcements after Mass, Msgr. Kenney announced the retirement at the end of the year of Dussault as the director of Youth Ministry, and said a few words in honor of her years of hard work and dedication.
After Mass, there was a swearing-in ceremony for new members of the Diocesan Leadership Team, an organization within the Youth Ministry made up of high school-aged youth who organize youth-oriented activities in the Church.
Mass was followed by dinner for those in attendance. The day’s events closed with a Eucharistic procession, Adoration, and another concert by Justin Dery and Summit.
The event was well-received by the youth in attendance.
“I wanted to spend time with friends and God today,” said Avery of Holy Trinity Parish in Woonsocket. “I’m having a really good time.”
“It’s been great. Getting closer to God, nothing could be better,” said Sam, also of Holy Trinity.