UPDATE: Youth encouraged to look for God’s intended purpose

February 5, 2024 at 8:33 p.m.
DYC participants get a photo taken with an image of Pope Francis. Mike Ehrmann photo
DYC participants get a photo taken with an image of Pope Francis. Mike Ehrmann photo

By EMMALEE ITALIA
Contributing Editor

From praise and worship and Eucharistic Adoration to inspiring talks and tangible service, the annual Diocesan Youth Conference Feb. 3 hit all the high notes as teens gathered to consider the intentionality of their lives.

“There are so many purposes to this day. ... God has so many different purposes for you,” Dan Waddington, diocesan director of the Department of Youth and Young Adult Ministries, told approximately 800 eighth through 12th graders gathered at Red Bank Catholic High School. The conference’s theme was “On Purpose” and, as emcee for the day, Waddington regularly addressed the teens gathered as “Church,” emphasizing their present and necessary role in the Body of Christ.

PHOTO GALLERY: 2024 Diocesan Youth Conference

“God sent his son Jesus ... [who] died for us, on purpose. He did not have this done to him ... but he allowed it to happen, on purpose,” Waddington continued. “He did that for you and for me, so that we would know God’s love ... and we have a path to heaven through Jesus through the perfect love of God because of what he did for us, on purpose.”

Message From Bishop and Pope

Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., who originally planned to celebrate the DYC closing Mass, was unable to attend due to health concerns; Father Martin O’Reilly, pastor of Mary, Mother of the Church Parish, Bordentown, celebrated Mass in his place. In a prerecorded message aired at the end of Mass, the Bishop relayed greetings from his January encounters with Pope Francis at the Vatican.

“As the Holy Father approached me in his wheelchair and the pilgrims who had come with me, he gave us a big smile, raised his hand, and said ‘Trenton! Trenton! Trenton! God bless you!’” Bishop O’Connell said. “He said those words ‘on purpose.’ The Holy Father wanted us to know that we mean something to him, that he cares, that the Church cares ... about you.

“As you continue your journeys of faith, you do so ‘on purpose,’” the Bishop emphasized, “with the intention of growing in your faith, deepening and strengthening your faith, of becoming more convinced, intentional, purposeful. We are Catholics on purpose! Let’s keep that purpose alive every day.”

A ‘Revolutionary’ Faith

Youth from religious education programs and Catholic schools across the Diocese listened to the wisdom of Aires Patulot, keynote speaker and youth retreat leader from Seattle, who described his childhood desire to become a doctor switching abruptly in his teen years.

“When my mom asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I told her, ‘I want to be a revolutionary,’” he recounted, having no idea that it was a spiritual revolution he would one day champion. “I swear God heard me that day. ... I didn’t know it at the time, but God was doing something in my life, and was putting me on a path — so be careful what you pray for, because God is listening. And God wants to work out his purpose for you in unexpected and beautiful ways.”

He pointed to the biblical scene of Acts 3, when the apostles Peter and John were approaching the Beautiful Gate of the temple and were asked by a crippled beggar for money; although they had no money to give, Peter replied, “‘What I have I give to you — In the name of Jesus rise and walk.’ ... And the beggar didn’t just stand and walk ... he was dancing,” Patulot explained.

“People who saw him believed — not because of the power of Peter and John, but because of the joy of the crippled beggar,” he said. “Brothers and sisters, we are called for a purpose. ... I do have something to give — I can give my life, my time and attention. ... You have something to give; the world needs you. You are a unique, unrepeatable, irreplaceable gift ... you have something to give ... and no one else can do it for you.”

Eucharistic Adoration

The day featured time for quiet prayer before the Eucharist, introduced as a way to unburden the young Catholics from all the competing and often toxic information and pressures imposed by society. Participants sat and knelt before the Blessed Sacrament monstrance installed atop a “burning bush” structure of candles, while soft worship music helped to set the tone.

“The world and the flesh will try to convince you that this isn’t real; he is so real and will never leave us orphans,” said Gez Ford, music and worship leader. “He remains in your heart and mind. ... Become Jesus to the next person you meet.”

During lunch the groups heard from seminarians, deacons and priests of the Diocese about their experiences and what they enjoyed most about their vocations, as well as from Mercy Sister Donna D’Alia, pastoral associate for catechesis in St. Rose Parish, Belmar.

“It’s a great adventure — one day isn’t the same as another,” said Sister Donna, who noted that when she began wearing the habit, “people started greeting me ... not because of me, but because they were looking for Jesus. ... God might be calling you; listen. ... We need people to replace us.”

Spending Time in Service

In cooperation with St. Francis Inn and Jenna’s Blessing Bags, the young Catholics also joined forces to assemble 375 backpacks filled with JBB-supplied necessities to help the homeless of Philadelphia and in the Diocese of Trenton.

Inspired by the life of Jenna Burleigh, JBB was launched by her family in 2017 to commemorate Jenna’s devotion to assisting the homeless. When the 22-year-old Temple University student was murdered, her car was discovered with backpacks inside designated for giving to those most in need. The organization bearing her name distributes “blessing bags” — backpacks filled with essentials like blankets, gloves, socks, toiletries and food, including a message of love for the recipient. Items to fill the bags were donated by JBB and parishes of the Diocese.

Burleigh’s parents, Jackie and Ed, were present to express their gratitude, as were volunteers and staff of St. Francis Inn, a Catholic Franciscan soup kitchen and social service center serving the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia since 1979. The soup kitchen will help distribute the filled backpacks to their guests. A portion of the bags will be given to those in need in the Trenton Diocese.

Takeaways From The Day

DYC participant Bridget Ryan, a sophomore in Red Bank Catholic, found the day very meaningful saying, “I just thought it was beautiful how [during Adoration] everybody just stopped and turned, and everyone slowly got onto their knees and started praying toward the monstrance.

“I’ve never seen anything like that before,” she said.

Fellow classmate Molly O’Connor reflected the message she gleaned from Patulot’s presentation as well as participating in the service outreach.

“We all have times when we struggle ... or feel angry with God when something happens, but I think through this it showed me that through the good and the bad he’s always there,” O’Connor said, then added that she was so inspired to hear Patulot talk about building homes and helping people that she wants to do that too.

“I want to help people thrive,” she said. 

Of her DYC experience, Francesca “Frankie” Ranucci, a junior at Red Bank Catholic, who assisted the Diocese of Trenton’s Communications team with student interviews throughout the day, said she often feels that “a lot of people think of Catholicism to be a very boring thing – sitting in Mass, kneeling, not talking for an hour …

But DYC “is so exciting because you have this group of people that all have the one goal, and that’s to love God and be with God, she said. And the best part is that along with the music, fun games and making backpacks for the homeless is that “you get to be with a group of people who love it.”


Performing works of service to help others in need was factored in the DYC schedule. Mike Ehrmann photo 

The Church needs quality Catholic journalism now more than ever. Please consider supporting this work by signing up for a SUBSCRIPTION (click HERE) or making a DONATION to The Monitor (click HERE). Thank you for your support.


Related Stories

From praise and worship and Eucharistic Adoration to inspiring talks and tangible service, the annual Diocesan Youth Conference Feb. 3 hit all the high notes as teens gathered to consider the intentionality of their lives.

“There are so many purposes to this day. ... God has so many different purposes for you,” Dan Waddington, diocesan director of the Department of Youth and Young Adult Ministries, told approximately 800 eighth through 12th graders gathered at Red Bank Catholic High School. The conference’s theme was “On Purpose” and, as emcee for the day, Waddington regularly addressed the teens gathered as “Church,” emphasizing their present and necessary role in the Body of Christ.

PHOTO GALLERY: 2024 Diocesan Youth Conference

“God sent his son Jesus ... [who] died for us, on purpose. He did not have this done to him ... but he allowed it to happen, on purpose,” Waddington continued. “He did that for you and for me, so that we would know God’s love ... and we have a path to heaven through Jesus through the perfect love of God because of what he did for us, on purpose.”

Message From Bishop and Pope

Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., who originally planned to celebrate the DYC closing Mass, was unable to attend due to health concerns; Father Martin O’Reilly, pastor of Mary, Mother of the Church Parish, Bordentown, celebrated Mass in his place. In a prerecorded message aired at the end of Mass, the Bishop relayed greetings from his January encounters with Pope Francis at the Vatican.

“As the Holy Father approached me in his wheelchair and the pilgrims who had come with me, he gave us a big smile, raised his hand, and said ‘Trenton! Trenton! Trenton! God bless you!’” Bishop O’Connell said. “He said those words ‘on purpose.’ The Holy Father wanted us to know that we mean something to him, that he cares, that the Church cares ... about you.

“As you continue your journeys of faith, you do so ‘on purpose,’” the Bishop emphasized, “with the intention of growing in your faith, deepening and strengthening your faith, of becoming more convinced, intentional, purposeful. We are Catholics on purpose! Let’s keep that purpose alive every day.”

A ‘Revolutionary’ Faith

Youth from religious education programs and Catholic schools across the Diocese listened to the wisdom of Aires Patulot, keynote speaker and youth retreat leader from Seattle, who described his childhood desire to become a doctor switching abruptly in his teen years.

“When my mom asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I told her, ‘I want to be a revolutionary,’” he recounted, having no idea that it was a spiritual revolution he would one day champion. “I swear God heard me that day. ... I didn’t know it at the time, but God was doing something in my life, and was putting me on a path — so be careful what you pray for, because God is listening. And God wants to work out his purpose for you in unexpected and beautiful ways.”

He pointed to the biblical scene of Acts 3, when the apostles Peter and John were approaching the Beautiful Gate of the temple and were asked by a crippled beggar for money; although they had no money to give, Peter replied, “‘What I have I give to you — In the name of Jesus rise and walk.’ ... And the beggar didn’t just stand and walk ... he was dancing,” Patulot explained.

“People who saw him believed — not because of the power of Peter and John, but because of the joy of the crippled beggar,” he said. “Brothers and sisters, we are called for a purpose. ... I do have something to give — I can give my life, my time and attention. ... You have something to give; the world needs you. You are a unique, unrepeatable, irreplaceable gift ... you have something to give ... and no one else can do it for you.”

Eucharistic Adoration

The day featured time for quiet prayer before the Eucharist, introduced as a way to unburden the young Catholics from all the competing and often toxic information and pressures imposed by society. Participants sat and knelt before the Blessed Sacrament monstrance installed atop a “burning bush” structure of candles, while soft worship music helped to set the tone.

“The world and the flesh will try to convince you that this isn’t real; he is so real and will never leave us orphans,” said Gez Ford, music and worship leader. “He remains in your heart and mind. ... Become Jesus to the next person you meet.”

During lunch the groups heard from seminarians, deacons and priests of the Diocese about their experiences and what they enjoyed most about their vocations, as well as from Mercy Sister Donna D’Alia, pastoral associate for catechesis in St. Rose Parish, Belmar.

“It’s a great adventure — one day isn’t the same as another,” said Sister Donna, who noted that when she began wearing the habit, “people started greeting me ... not because of me, but because they were looking for Jesus. ... God might be calling you; listen. ... We need people to replace us.”

Spending Time in Service

In cooperation with St. Francis Inn and Jenna’s Blessing Bags, the young Catholics also joined forces to assemble 375 backpacks filled with JBB-supplied necessities to help the homeless of Philadelphia and in the Diocese of Trenton.

Inspired by the life of Jenna Burleigh, JBB was launched by her family in 2017 to commemorate Jenna’s devotion to assisting the homeless. When the 22-year-old Temple University student was murdered, her car was discovered with backpacks inside designated for giving to those most in need. The organization bearing her name distributes “blessing bags” — backpacks filled with essentials like blankets, gloves, socks, toiletries and food, including a message of love for the recipient. Items to fill the bags were donated by JBB and parishes of the Diocese.

Burleigh’s parents, Jackie and Ed, were present to express their gratitude, as were volunteers and staff of St. Francis Inn, a Catholic Franciscan soup kitchen and social service center serving the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia since 1979. The soup kitchen will help distribute the filled backpacks to their guests. A portion of the bags will be given to those in need in the Trenton Diocese.

Takeaways From The Day

DYC participant Bridget Ryan, a sophomore in Red Bank Catholic, found the day very meaningful saying, “I just thought it was beautiful how [during Adoration] everybody just stopped and turned, and everyone slowly got onto their knees and started praying toward the monstrance.

“I’ve never seen anything like that before,” she said.

Fellow classmate Molly O’Connor reflected the message she gleaned from Patulot’s presentation as well as participating in the service outreach.

“We all have times when we struggle ... or feel angry with God when something happens, but I think through this it showed me that through the good and the bad he’s always there,” O’Connor said, then added that she was so inspired to hear Patulot talk about building homes and helping people that she wants to do that too.

“I want to help people thrive,” she said. 

Of her DYC experience, Francesca “Frankie” Ranucci, a junior at Red Bank Catholic, who assisted the Diocese of Trenton’s Communications team with student interviews throughout the day, said she often feels that “a lot of people think of Catholicism to be a very boring thing – sitting in Mass, kneeling, not talking for an hour …

But DYC “is so exciting because you have this group of people that all have the one goal, and that’s to love God and be with God, she said. And the best part is that along with the music, fun games and making backpacks for the homeless is that “you get to be with a group of people who love it.”


Performing works of service to help others in need was factored in the DYC schedule. Mike Ehrmann photo 

The Church needs quality Catholic journalism now more than ever. Please consider supporting this work by signing up for a SUBSCRIPTION (click HERE) or making a DONATION to The Monitor (click HERE). Thank you for your support.

Have a news tip? Email [email protected] or Call/Text 360-922-3092

e-Edition


e-edition

Sign up


for our email newsletters

Weekly Top Stories

Sign up to get our top stories delivered to your inbox every Sunday

Daily Updates & Breaking News Alerts

Sign up to get our daily updates and breaking news alerts delivered to your inbox daily

Latest Stories


Bishop0 joins Aquinas Institute community for Mass
Father Zachary Swantek and members of the Aquinas Institute welcomed ...

The Doomsday Clock –the theoretical timepiece that measures humanity's march
he Doomsday Clock –the theoretical timepiece that measures humanity's march...

Catholic men share faith, fellowship at annual rally
The 2024 Catholic Men for Jesus Christ conference brought together ...

Seven U.S. cardinals pledge to help heal Ukraine's wounds of war through new fund
With Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine entering its third year...

En el Rito de Elección, el Obispo dice que “ser Católico hace la diferencia
Emilio Robles le da crédito a su prometida y a su familia...


The Evangelist, 40 North Main Ave., Albany, NY, 12203-1422 | PHONE: 518-453-6688| FAX: 518-453-8448
© 2024 Trenton Monitor, All Rights Reserved.