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Friday, February 9, 2001
A fountain of spirit at Youth Day

By Jennifer C. Vergara

To listen to Mike Norman, coordinator of the archdiocesan office of Youth Ministry, speak about the upcoming Youth Day of the Religious Education Congress is to have his excitement rub off. Youth Day, which will be held Feb. 15 at the Anaheim Convention Center, promises to be a fun-filled, spiritually up-lifting experience for teens.

Youth Day blasts off with an 8:30 a.m. morning worship led by Irish pop-rock group Ceili Rain and an Ohio-based group of music and youth ministers called “Who Do You Say That I AM?” Then at 9 a.m., Father Tony Ricard, pastor and parochial administrator of two New Orleans parishes, gives the keynote address.

“What’s big about [Father Ricard] is he pushes the envelope in a big old way,” said Norman. “He’s someone that the kids connect with. The best I can tell you is people leave either really, really liking him - or not like him at all. There’s no in between.”

Norman added that Father Ricard was invited to come back this year because the workshop he gave last year, entitled “Ministry to and Through Our Youth: Evangelization with a Peat,” “just really bowled people over.”

For teens, what’s also cool is hearing other teens talk about their relationship with God. During the 11 a.m. liturgy„ two youths will share their experiences and reflections during Cardinal Roger Mahony’s homily.

One is Vesna Loek, a refugee from Cambodia “He did not speak any English when he got here in third grade or fourth grade,” said Norman. “And now he’s an honor student at Don Bosco Tech” in Rosemead. Connecting to the Congress theme of “Clothed in Love, Summoned Beyond,” Loek will talk about “how he was embraced and clothed in hospitality when he got to the States and how he’s been summoned beyond that [struggle],” said Norman.

The other youth invited to share at the homily is Dana Pacheco, a student from St. Joseph High School, Lakewood who is “an all-American, young leader of her school,” said Norman.

The 12,000 teenagers expected to attend Youth Day will listen to workshops that were designed to cover their usual cares and concerns. Some of the sessions are:

 • “Healing to Hope: Ministry to Gang Youth” – about  violence and gang problems faced by poor, urban youth.

 • “The 411 on `R-U-Saved?’“ presenting practical answers to Catholic questions on salvation.

 • “Scripture Rocks!” – on making the Bible come to life.

 • “Multicultural Church ...Wuzzup?” – on how people of all ethnicities are clothed in God’s love.

 • “Sex has a Price Tag” – on the sanctity of sex and the consequence of pre-marital sex.

One workshop will be given by Robert McCarty, executive director of the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry – or, as Norman calls him, the “guru of youth ministry.”

McCarty told The Tidings that his talk, “Survival Skills for Catholic Teens,” will compare teenagers today with their parents’ generation as teens.

“Today’s kids are dealing with issues so entirely different from those their parents faced,” said McCarty. “I’m going to talk about how the world has changed and-how the pace of life has quickened” because of advances in telecommunication and computer technologies.

“The world is a smaller place than it was 20 years ago,” explained McCarty. “Even in terms of going to school - there’s so much more to learn. There’s just more knowledge out there, pure knowledge, so the pressure [for teens to perform] is higher now than 20 years ago, when their parents were still in high school. So how do they begin to live in a world that is faster and smaller?”

Hoping to help young people keep their sanity and their sanctity, McCarty will offer survival skills in his workshop. Some of the how-to’s he’ll give are on: 1) developing perspective; 2) making decisions with the money they have; 3) setting direction in their life; 4) handling grief, sadness and loss; and 5) integrating faith into their life.

In light of the report announced last month by Surgeon General David Satcher, linking media violence to aggressive behavior in youth, McCarty said he plans to emphasize the skill of developing perspective and balance. “The whole thing is about paying attention to the messages of media and advertisements and movies. Kids absorb all those messages and they don’t realize they have to pay attention to what those messages are and they should choose which ones to listen to.”

The one message he hopes they will absorb, added McCarty, is the theme of Youth Day: “My premise is: God loves you. And if we really believe that, then we’re called to respond and love God. And the way to love God is to love others. We need to reach out to families, friends, to be of service to others. We’re summoned beyond ourselves. We’re summoned to discipleship.”

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