CUMBERLAND — Although organizers feared that the strong winds and rain impacting the region as Hurricane Dorian passed by to the south and east of New England might put a damper on the second annual Diocesan Youth Day celebration, the day turned out just fine as about 250 people — including 175 student participants — gathered on the spacious grounds of Our Lady of Fatima Parish to celebrate their faith.
See a photo gallery from this year's Diocesan Youth Day!
The all-day program began at 10 a.m. and featured music and interactive games, followed by a keynote presentation by Dr. Ansel Augustine, director of the Office of Black Catholic Ministries for the Archdiocese of New Orleans, who also serves on the faculty of the Institute of Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana.
He has worked in ministry for more than 15 years and has a master’s degree in pastoral studies from Loyola University’s Institute for Ministry, a certificate in youth ministry from Xavier University’s Institute for Black Catholic Studies, and a Doctor of Ministry degree.
Dr. Augustine’s keynote centered on what was a central theme of the day: making time for prayer amid lives that are filled with after-school activities and jobs that today can far exceed the schedules their parents may have had in their youth.
He tasked each participant with making a Prayer Clock and asked them to schedule time to pray for different individuals in their lives between the end of his morning session and the one he would lead with them again later in the early evening, when he told them about his experiences during Hurricane Katrina and his days working as a youth minister.
Our Lady of Fatima Pastor Father Fernando Cabral hosted the diocesan Youth Ministry event at his parish, leaving up a large white tent providing shade for dozens of long tables and chairs at which the participants dined, following the parish’s recent feast.
Following lunch, the students took part in various workshops on the grounds.
In the Peace Rock Garden, Brooxana Pierre presented a session entitled “Living Without the Baggage,” while Father Chris Murphy, the newly installed rector of Our Lady of Providence Seminary, offered a talk to a large group under the tent entitled “What the Church Says: Love, Human Dignity and Morality.”
Meanwhile, Dr. Allison Amodie, principal of St. Theresa School in Pawtucket, offered a presentation on the lawn called “Don’t Let Your Faith Fizzle Out,” while Father Brian Morris, diocesan vocations director, led a living Stations of the Cross Walk around the spacious grounds, reinforcing the gravity of Jesus’ final walk to Calvary by depicting images from his participation in a similar walk along the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem, following the actual route Jesus is believed to have taken on the day he was crucified.
Other workshops and prayer experiences were offered as well, as was the opportunity for everyone to receive the sacrament of penance.
Bishop Thomas J. Tobin celebrated Mass at 4 p.m. in the church, along with several other priest concelebrants.
In his homily, Bishop Tobin recalled the teachings of the late Saint Pope John Paul II, who warned of the rise of what he referred to as “Practical Atheism.”
“So many people are trying to live without any faith; to live without God,” Bishop Tobin said.
He said that people just go through their daily lives without even thinking about God until they need help when they find themselves in a difficult situation, likening their view of God to a fire extinguisher to be used to save them from a personal crisis.
“That’s how we treat God sometimes,” he said.
The bishop reminded those gathered that it is their faith that keeps them “Anchored” — the theme of this year’s event — and needs to be nurtured every day.
“Faith is the safe harbor that welcomes you home when you encounter the storms of life,” Bishop Tobin said.
“Faith is that key for you that will open your way to heaven.
Following Mass, the students participated in a spirited game of Vocations Bingo, in which participants raced around the church yard asking a number of priests, deacons and religious sisters questions about their vocations to fill up their bingo cards.
The most moving part of the day came after sunset, when all processed out to a hill on the grounds, placing lighted luminaria bags along their path, for adoration before a grotto of Our Lady of Fatima.
Michael Ciolino, 15, a parishioner at St. John Vianney Church, said he enjoyed hearing in the workshops about different ways he could pray that would motivate him to do so more often.
“We learned that we don’t have to do it just as traditional prayer,” he said, noting how he could take time to pray for the needs of others and his family whenever he had a spare moment during the day and it didn’t have to be structured time.
Veronica Delacruz, 19, of St. Edward Parish, was attending her first Youth Day.
“So far, it’s been great,” she said. “I’ve learned a lot about making time for prayer.”
Joselyn Ortega, 14, who attended last year and inspired Delacruz to attend, said she would come again to next year’s event. “I’ve learned a lot about forgiveness,” she said.
Louise Dussault, director of diocesan Youth Ministry, said she was very pleased with the way the day turned out.
“It’s been a good day,” she said, offering her thanks to the event’s host, Father Fernando Cabral for all his assistance from his parish, as well as Youth Coordinator Melissa DiFonzo and the many other ministry leaders, young adults, parish staff and committee members who helped to make the day a success.
Leo Fontaine, the director of the Father Marot CYO Center in Woonsocket, also was very pleased with the turnout and positive reaction from the participants.
“It’s a great opportunity for the kids to get together from across the state to meet children from other parishes and be excited about the different workshops and deepen their faith with what they learn and then bring that back to their parishes with them,” he said.