Bishop David M. O'Connell, C.M., celebrates Mas for at the 2016 New Jersey Catholic Youth Rally at Six Flags Great Adventure. Joe Moore photo
Bishop David M. O'Connell, C.M., celebrates Mas for at the 2016 New Jersey Catholic Youth Rally at Six Flags Great Adventure. Joe Moore photo

By EmmaLee Italia | Contributing Editor

The Diocese of Trenton’s Year of Youth has seen many unique and inspiring events that celebrate young people throughout its four counties.

The annual New Jersey Catholic Youth Rally will not only continue that trend but also take things to a whole new level as it welcomes renowned Christian and Catholic music artist Matt Maher.

“Because of the Year of Youth, we wanted to make this year special,” said Dan Waddington, director of the diocesan Department of Youth and Young Adult Ministries, explaining that this year’s Mass will be celebrated by Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M.

Hosted this year by the Diocese of Trenton May 19 at Six Flags Great Adventure, Jackson, the statewide youth rally is casting an even wider net by emphasizing an invitation to all youth and their families – including but not limited to junior high and high school-age youth, young adults, Scouting groups, altar servers, religious education families, parish families, Confirmation programs, children and youth choirs.

“The definition of youth is very wide here,” Waddington said. “We’re being very intentional about making sure all youth, young adults and their families know they are invited to experience this great event.”

The annual event, which costs $50, is coordinated by the Dioceses of Trenton, Metuchen, Camden and Paterson, along with the Archdiocese of Newark. This year’s opening ceremony, which will begin at 9:30 a.m., will be sponsored by the Diocese of Camden and led by the Community of the Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal (CFR) from Atlantic City with a witness talk and music.

Bishop O’Connell will celebrate Mass at 5 p.m., which will be followed by the concert with Maher.

The addition of a concert to close the day is new to the NJ Catholic Youth Rally – an addition Waddington said would not have been possible without the co-sponsorship of Six Flags Great Adventure.

“Kudos to Great Adventure,” Waddington explained. “It really felt like the Holy Spirit was moving in and around the opportunity to bring Matt Maher in – and the most significant door that opened was due to the [financial] support of Six Flags Great Adventure … They believed in adding the concert to this event ... They really embraced that vision of how to make a strong event even stronger.”

Of the musician himself, Waddington said it’s an appropriate fit for a Catholic youth event.

“Matt Maher is a true Catholic artist, [whose] theology is reflected in his music,” Waddington said. “He is a powerful witness.”