Bishop Michael A. Saporito, D.D., from the Archdiocese of Newark, delivers his homily while the Wonder Woman Lasso of Truth swings by in the background.
Bishop Michael A. Saporito, D.D., from the Archdiocese of Newark, delivers his homily while the Wonder Woman Lasso of Truth swings by in the background.

“It’s good that you are here!” 

With her enthusiastic welcome, Megan Callahan, director, Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry in the Diocese of Metuchen, greeted more than 500 teens and youth ministers gathered in Showcase Arena at Six Flags Great Adventure, Jackson, May 21, Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord, for the New Jersey Catholic Youth Rally.

PHOTO GALLERY: New Jersey Catholic Youth Rally

Each year hundreds of teens converge in the Ocean County theme park from the Dioceses of Trenton, Metuchen, Camden, Paterson and Archdiocese of Newark for a day of fun, fellowship and faith sharing.

The opening ceremony, hosted this year by the Diocese of Metuchen, included music, games and prayer led by Break Ministry, an organization that offers youth and young adult ministry consulting, a nightly online prayer group, and support to Catholic parishes around the state.

Ramil Caragay and Jasmine Alfaro from Break Ministry, served as the morning’s emcees and connected the excitement of the day at Six Flags with the excitement of living a life of faith.

Alfaro shared a quote from St. Augustine of Hippo, “To fall in love with God is the greatest romance; to seek him the greatest adventure; to find him, the greatest human achievement.”

She encouraged the youth to “gain a new perspective today, make new friends and fall more in love with God.”

After the opening ceremony it was time to hit the rides and the teens wasted no time heading into the park. 

Father Michael Tabernero, director of Catholic identity, St. Thomas Aquinas High School, Edison, shared his thoughts on the day’s opening activities and what he hoped his students would experience at the Rally.

“I thought it was great– there was a lot of energy. It was so nice to see so many kids there. There was a lot of excitement and it was great to listen to Break Ministry and hear their stories of faith. I hope the kids have a lot of fun. … We’re looking forward to sharing Mass at the end of the day together.”

After a full day of thrill rides, games of chance and funnel cakes, almost a thousand members of the young Church gathered in the Batman Stunt Arena for Mass celebrated by Bishop Michael A. Saporito, D.D., from the Archdiocese of Newark.

“It’s a beautiful day to praise our Lord, Jesus Christ!” he said and received a thunderous response from the crowd.

He was joined by Bishop Kevin J. Sweeney from the Diocese of Paterson and priests from around the state. 

In his homily, Bishop Saporito reflected on the Ascension and how the followers of Jesus, overjoyed at the Resurrection, had to come to the realization that Jesus was going to be leaving them again.

“He had chosen them for a great mission- to go and make disciples of all the nations. He was about to hand his mission over to these imperfect people who knew him and loved him greatly and he was relying on that love and the gifts of the Holy Spirit to set their hearts on fire so they could bring the message of Jesus throughout the whole world.

“We can’t look up at the sky and say, ‘Hey Lord when is your next miracle?’ I’m looking at his next miracle it’s all of us altogether.  Take the opportunity to shine your light– your brightness within and be a messenger for Christ every day in your lives.”

In addition to riding the rollercoasters (with the world’s tallest rollercoaster Kingda Ka being a favorite among those polled) the opportunity to gather together in prayer was the highlight of the day for many of the youth.

This was the first time Ella Froslear, 12, from St. Pius X, Forked River, attended the New Jersey Catholic Rally and hopes to attend again in the future.

“I liked all the music and the songs. If you really want to have fun and praise God, today is the day for you.”

This was the second year Carmine Steffens, 15, of St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral Parish, Freehold, participated in the event with members of his youth group.

“The Mass was my favorite part of the day. I am a liturgical person–I love the liturgy. I really enjoyed the Mass and the different parts of it. It’s great to experience it with all the different youth groups around and with two bishops and all the priests coming together,” he said.

“I know it sounds like I may be just saying this, but riding the rides wasn’t my main focus in coming today. I wanted to connect with others and I really do feel more connected with everyone here.” Ash Foti, 16, from St. Aloysius Parish, Jackson, shared.

The day not only resonated with the youth, but also with the adults like Jeanne Marinello, the youth group coordinator in the Co-Cathedral, who chaperoned the event.

“I love it. It encourages me to see these kids and their youth ministers and many different people coming together in faith. With all of the dark things happening in the world today, this is light. This is hope.”

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