PUYALLUP – More than 700 high school youth from 61 parishes gathered for the Archdiocese of Seattle’s Catholic Youth Convention Nov. 11–12, where dynamic speakers challenged them to grow in their faith.
“Are you following Christ because all your friends are doing it?” asked Nashville Dominican Sister Maria Caeli. Or “are you following Christ because you want a relationship with Jesus Christ?”
She urged the teens to pray every day, like the saints. “You’re called to be a saint,” she said. “You’re called to an abundant life. … Do not be afraid of the greatness God calls you to.”
This year’s convention, held at the Washington State Fair complex, had the theme “Awaken,” based on the verse from the Gospel of Matthew: “Stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.”
Emcee Jesse Manibusan, a nationally known singer/songwriter and storyteller, engaged the crowd throughout the weekend.
“Let us, as we welcome each other, remember: Who is the church?” he asked. “We are!” the teens replied.
The weekend was about more than celebratory cheering and flashing stage lights, however. The high school students experienced different forms of prayer, such as the rosary and the Liturgy of the Hours. Three students were selected to share their faith testimonies with the crowd, and youth ministers led their parish groups in reflection questions.
“In this moment, we are called to be awakened,” Manibusan said. “In this moment, we are challenged to be radically present.”
Father Jewel Aytona, of the Fathers of Mercy, uses singing and beatboxing as a method of evangelization. Photo: Danica Delosreyes
‘Next generation’ priest
A highlight of the weekend was Father Jewel Aytona of the Fathers of Mercy, who is not only a missionary preacher, but also a beatboxer/songwriter. Father Aytona began or ended his talks with an original song, and received a standing ovation from the teens gathered.
Dan Le, youth minister at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Everett, said he appreciated how fun and fresh the speakers were. Father Aytona, he said, is “the ‘next generation’ sort of priest. It’s really awesome and I think the kids are connecting with that.”
During his keynote speech, Father Aytona emphasized the importance of Mass, personal prayer and confession.
“God’s divine light can scatter any darkness in our hearts in that sacrament,” he said. “Come one, come all, just like the prodigal son came to his father. … God, the Father of Mercy, runs to us in the great sacrament of confession.”
Over 700 high school students knelt in prayer as Dominican Father Lukasz Misko led an adoration procession around the room. Photo: Danica Delosreyes
A powerful adoration experience
Kristine Mauss, founder of Theology of the Body Northwest, spoke about the image of the wedding feast of the Lamb in preparation for an hour of eucharistic adoration for the teens.
“Jesus is our bridegroom, and when we go to heaven we will become one with God,” Mauss said. “Christ is calling us tonight to be with him, and we are so lucky to be with him.”
This year’s adoration time featured a procession that traveled between rows of kneeling students, an experience that brought 14-year-old Kayla Brosius to tears.
“I never cry at anything at church,” said Brosius, a member of Holy Redeemer Parish in Vancouver, who was experiencing her first eucharistic adoration.
As Dominican Father Lukasz Misko, campus ministry director at St. Catherine of Siena Newman Center in Salt Lake City, approached her with the monstrance, her heart “started beating really fast,” Brosius said. A wrestler, Brosius said her hands are normally rough, but during adoration “my hands got really warm and soft, almost silky. That’s why I started crying.”
Members of Federal Way's St. Vincent de Paul youth group huddle up for one more photo as Catholic Youth Convention comes to a close. Photo: Danica Delosreyes
The convention concluded with Sunday morning Mass celebrated by Father Bryan Dolejsi, director of vocations for the Archdiocese of Seattle.
In his homily, Father Dolejsi said the Gospel reading of the parable of the 10 virgins shows “how important it is to be ready to meet the bridegroom.” The saints were prepared, he said, with lives focused on serving God’s people.
He told the youth they must “invest time and energy” to have a close relationship with Jesus. “Greet him as a friend and welcome him into [your] life completely.”