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CURRENT ISSUE:  April 11, 2011
VOL. 49, NO. 7   •   Oakland, CA
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Rally draws 1,000 young people
 

Students participate in games on the Bishop O’Dowd football field during lunch. This one involves putting a person inside an inflatable “hamster ball” and rolling across the field.
José Luis Aguirre photo

More than 1,000 high school students and their youth group leaders gathered at Bishop O’Dowd High School on April 2 for the first diocesan youth day, a colorful celebration that included mariachis, Tongan dance, Christian rock, dynamic speakers, colorful banners, more than a dozen priests and seminarians and Mass celebrated by Bishop Salvatore J. Cordileone.

The day was the fulfillment of a long-held dream of diocesan youth ministry director Patti Collyer, who told one group that it had been her desire “longer than some of you have been alive” to have a day like this.

More than 30 parishes participated. Some kids had to get up early in the day.

If you were a youth group member at St. Michael’s in Livermore, for example, it was rise and shine at 6 a.m. on a Saturday. And Lizette Suarez, youth minister at St. Anthony in Oakley, brought a dozen youths on BART and the shuttle that ran between BART and the O’Dowd campus. “I’m hoping they get excited about their faith,” she said of her group, which attended a charismatic youth conference in February and the Walk for Life West Coast in January.

Beach balls floated over the crowd as they awaited the arrival of musicians and speakers.


Julio Suarez, 25, of St. Anthony Parish in Oakley, exhorted the crowd: “Give it up for Jesus.”

Students react to a presentation by Father Agustino Torres.
José Luis Aguirre photo
Suarez shared emcee duties with Eileen Burrell, who is youth minister at St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Livermore. Mariachi Dinastia Torres, Tongan dancers from the Confirmation class at St. Stephen Parish in Walnut Creek and the Young People’s Choir of St. Benedict Parish of Oakland received enthusiastic applause from the crowd, as did City’s End, the band that performed and also provided the music at Mass.

Musician and evangelist Bob Rice provided the morning’s keynote talk, alternating among guitar, Bible and when-I-was-a-teenager stories, to engage the youth. “Do you love the Lord?” he asked them. “Do you want to be like the Lord?”

A powerful moment


One powerful moment came as Julio Suarez reminded students of obligations to receive Communion: being in a state of grace.

At that announcement, several young people in the crowd asked if there would be an opportunity for Reconciliation before Mass, which was scheduled to begin in a few minutes. Some priests who had accompanied their youth groups offered, and other priests, who had just finished vesting for the Mass, joined them on the school’s quad as students lined up to receive the sacrament.

Among the seminarians in attendance was Michael Nufable, who grew up in St. Patrick Parish in Rodeo and who recalled a regional youth rally he had attended at St. Isidore Parish. “This is one of the main reasons I entered: the joy of youth ministry,” Nufable, 24, said. He was among the seminarians who had come from St. Patrick’s in Menlo Park to serve at the Mass.

Bishop Cordileone celebrated the Mass in the large gym at O’Dowd. “God is amazing,” he said after reaching the altar and looking out at the crowd. “It’s a joy for me. I’m so happy you’re here. I’m so happy to be here with you.”

With more a dozen priests, deacons and seminarians in attendance, he preached alternately in English and Spanish.
Bishop Salvatore J. Cordileone greets two Missionaries of Charity sisters, who accompanied the Confirmation class of St. Mark Parish in Richmond to youth day.
José Luis Aguirre photo

He encouraged young people to become prophets. He reminded them of the Lenten themes of prayer, fasting and alms-giving.

In his homily, he offered examples of people who lived lives of nonviolence: Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Mother Teresa.

At the Eucharistic Prayer, the students seated in chairs on the gym floor knelt. They did so again during veneration of the Blessed Sacrament at the end of the day.

After Mass, the bishop said he was pleased with the teens’ “responsiveness and attentiveness.”

‘Really into the spirit’


“They are really into the spirit of worship and praise,” he said, “open to the Church’s message to them. It gives me a sense of confidence to see their confidence in the wisdom of the Church.”

Lunch followed Mass, then the students broke into three smaller groups to hear an additional talk by Rice; a presentation from NET Ministries; and a session with Father Agustino Torres of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal.

NET — National Evangelization Team — presented skits and talks to the students. Members of the ministry team — who range from late teens to mid-20s, serve a year in this ministry — some are traveling, such as the team that visited Oakland, some parish-based, and some based in the ministry’s home area of Minneapolis-St. Paul. Father Mark Wiesner, pastor of St. Augustine Church in Oakland, is an alumnus of the group.

Father Torres, a native of South Texas, is now based in Paterson, N.J. His preaching, which included music, spoken word and dramatic storytelling, held the audience spellbound.

At the sending-forth ceremony at the end of the day, the students received plastic bracelets with the word: IGNITE and an invitation to return for the second annual youth day in 2012.

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