By Rose O’Connor | Correspondent
The 21st Annual New Jersey Catholic Youth Rally was held on May 15, Pentecost, at Six Flags Great Adventure, Jackson. Youth ministers and teens from throughout the Dioceses of Trenton, Paterson, Metuchen, Camden and the Archdiocese of Newark gathered for a day of fun and faith sharing as they boarded the roller coasters, won prizes and later gathered for Mass at the day-long event, which has become a favorite for the young faithful in the Garden State.
To see photos of the Mass celebrated by Bishop O'Connell, click here.
To see photos from the Opening Ceremonies, click here.
The Opening Ceremonies and gathering prayer was organized by the Archdiocese of Newark, and Father Matt Dooley, archdiocesan director of vocations, encouraged the teens to think about, “who packs your parachute?”
The avid skydiver unpacked a real parachute and demonstrated the need for all to “trust in God” and that “baptized disciples have what they need to be a true disciple of Christ.”
For the youth in the Trenton Diocese, the occasion to gather with other like-minded teens in a different atmosphere is a welcomed by them and their youth ministers.
“It’s great for the young Church to have an opportunity to combine faith and fun by playing and praying,” Rudy Gomez, youth minister coordinator for the Diocese of Trenton offered. “It’s about building community among the teens.”
St. Paul Parish, Princeton, parishioner and campus minister for Rider University, Lawrenceville, Bryan Mayer, also shared similar sentiments.
“This day is great because it is their chance to see other youth publically in a place they’re familiar with along with other faithful of the Church. It’s important for them to publically live out their faith.”
Mayer also served as reader for the Mass in the Progressive Arena, where Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., was the celebrant and homilist the Pentecost Sunday Mass.
“My dear sisters and brothers, what a great joy it is for us to join you here today at Six Flags on this Feast of Pentecost,’ Bishop O’Connell said, in his welcoming remarks. “I want to hear some noise! Are you happy to be here? Did you have a good day?”
The Bishop’s question was answered with a resounding cheer and applause from the faithful.
“It’s great that we can all join together in prayer with our priests, good deacons who are here with us today,” he said.
In his homily, O’Connell invited the teens to recall their Confirmation and the question asked, “Do you believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life?”
Bishop O’Connell then stated that it is “the same Holy Spirit who descended upon the apostles at Pentecost, the same Holy Spirit who comes to us at Confirmation, the same Holy Spirit that the Gospel tells us will be with us all days. Do you believe in the Holy Spirit-it’s a powerful question, it’s an important question. And do you know what’s even more powerful?” Bishop O’Connell asked.
“The answer,” he stated as he emphasized the importance of the Young Church.
“We celebrate Pentecost today as the birthday of the Church. The Bishop is called the successor of the apostles and I find that an awesome and humbling title. Although I may be the successor to the apostles, YOU, YOU are the Church and it’s the same Holy Spirit that descended upon the heads of the apostles in tongues of fire who continues to give us his gifts today.”
He concluded by acknowledging that Jesus taught much while he was on Earth and that he also instructed with his actions.
“No one has greater love than this, we are told, then to lay down his life for his friends. That relationship that God has with us, that relationship that Christ has with us, cost him his life. He gave it for us and, in that action, he preached the greatest sermon of all. The actions that we, as Catholics, as Christians, show this world make the same kind of proclamation. And when people see us and people hear us, when people follow us, it’s Jesus the Lord that they see, it’s Jesus the Lord that they hear, it’s Jesus the Lord that touches them and touched their hearts.”
“Our actions show people that we mean what we say, so when we say we love the Lord, we mean it. When we say we follow his word, we mean it,” Bishop O’Connell said. “When we promise that we believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, we mean it. For we know that a person is only as good as their word.”
“The answer you gave your bishop at your Confirmation ceremony has to stay with you, it’s got to stick. Believe in the Holy Spirit, believe that the Holy Spirit is with you every day and believe that the Holy Spirit will make you make a difference, just like the apostles made a difference in the early Church,” said Bishop O’Connell.
Collin Nichols, also from St. Paul Parish, had a positive experience at the youth rally.
“It’s a great location. It’s great to join together for Mass, to enjoy Christ together in a fun place,” he said.
Giulia Conigliaro, from St. Joan of Arc Parish, Marlton, said, “I like this event. We all get to know each other better and come together as a family. It’s good to get together with other teens from the Diocese of Trenton.”
Fellow youth group member Kailey Gaffney concurred. “To bring the different dioceses together for a day of faith and fun is so great. It’s important for us in the Diocese of Trenton.”
Perhaps it was the mighty winds that added a chill to the air, or the roaring sounds of roller coasters that could be heard during Mass, or the profound joy that was in the hearts of those present as they sang at Mass. It was evident that same Holy Spirit who descended upon the apostles at Pentecost was in the hearts of the Youth at Six Flags, Great Adventure.
Happy Birthday, Church!