Faithful from throughout the Diocese who assisted with the various events during the Year of Youth and diocesan staff members pray during the Mass of Thanksgiving to mark the year's conclusion. The Mass was celebrated June 21 in St. Aloysius Church, Jackson. John Batkowski photos
Faithful from throughout the Diocese who assisted with the various events during the Year of Youth and diocesan staff members pray during the Mass of Thanksgiving to mark the year's conclusion. The Mass was celebrated June 21 in St. Aloysius Church, Jackson. John Batkowski photos

By Katie Cerni | Digital and Social Media Coordinator

As the Diocese concluded its Year of Youth observance with a June 21 Mass of Thanksgiving in St. Aloysius Parish, Jackson, special appreciation was extended to those who volunteered their time and talents for helping to make “this year a successful year.”

Photo Gallery: Year of Youth Mass of Thanksgiving

“You said ‘yes,’ and your ‘yes’ has impacted the lives of hundreds upon hundreds of our young people who were gathered at different events throughout the year,” Father Martin O’Reilly, principal celebrant of the Mass and homilist, said to the youth and adult volunteers and their families who were present for the Mass.

“Without you, [the Year of Youth] could not have happened,” said Father O’Reilly, pastor of Mary, Mother of the Church Parish, Bordentown, and diocesan youth chaplain.

Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., decreed that the “Year of Youth” be observed in the Diocese starting July 1, 2018, and ending June 21, 2019. The intention behind the year was to highlight youth in and around the Diocese at both parish and diocesan levels.

After the Mass, all in attendance were welcome to gather for a reception in the parish hall, where they swapped stories from throughout the year’s events over a light dinner and coffee.

St. Aloysius parishioner Thomas Foti shared his joyful sentiments about how well integrated the Year of Youth was at his parish, “There was an ongoing schedule of activities for the youth at the church … it provided a real opportunity for the kids at the parish to come together, learn about God, and enjoy the time that they spent with one another … our children really enjoyed going this year,” said Foti.

Hannah Dalton, parishioner of St. Barnabas Parish, Bayville, enjoyed how more Diocesan events helped to foster long-distance friendships between youth across parishes. “Everyone gets together for Mission: Jersey and you might not see them again until DYC in February, so it was awesome to see my friends from all the other parishes more often,” she said.

Kyle Holler, who is planning to enter college seminary after he graduates from Holy Cross Preparatory Academy, Delran, in 2020, shared that this year also helped him feel connected to youth across the entire Diocese of Trenton.

“Seeing all the kids [that are] my age coming together to celebrate God, in a way makes me feel like I have the youth supporting me along the journey … they come together as one family and they don’t forget one other.”

Dan Waddington, director of the diocesan Department of Youth and Young Adult Ministries, expressed gratitude to the gathering, saying, “To so many of you who gave of your time freely, it is truly inspiring. The Year of Youth may have ended, but it’s not over. All I ask of you is that you help keep this going. Whatever initiatives are happening at the parish level, whatever you didn’t have time to accomplish, let’s keep that fire burning … let the youth know that they are not the Church of tomorrow, but the Church of today. Let’s keep the message of the Year of Youth alive and well for many, many years to come.”