Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of September 20, 1999
Jesus is in the building
400 youth devote weekend to finding and adoring God
By ANH HOANG
WCR Staff Writer
Attention all J.H Picard School visitors, Jesus is in the building.
The white lettered sign at the front of the southside school greeted almost 400 participants to the Youth 2000 event Sept. 10-12.
"I came here to meet God," said Pamela Prost, 15, who was echoing the sentiment of other youth and adults who came to sing, pray and discover a fuller understanding of their faith.
"It was just awesome," said Starla Prost, 18.
Awesome, spiritual, cleansing and wide-eyed smiles were all expressions used to describe the weekend event.
Youth 2000 is not a workshop or seminar. It's not a meeting or a get-together.
"And it's not meant as a movement," Father Terry Messer said.
The event's schedule - printed in a simple black and white brochure - hasn't changed for five years.
Prayer, music, talk, lunch, talk, music, rosary, Mass, dinner, Confession, meditation . . . all part of the routine schedule.
But what the brochure couldn't advertise was the intense atmosphere that filled the gymnasium as participants sat and listened to talks on Adoration, Reconciliation and the Great Jubilee.
The same atmosphere got them up on their feet, arms outstretched, clapping and singing Awesome God.
And the same atmosphere gets some of them coming back year after year.
"This is our third time," said Faith Case, a parent from Busby, who brought her daughters and five others from her parish. "And we'll be back every year."
The event was inspired by Pope John Paul who has encouraged the faith of youth. Youth 2000 has spread around the world. Activities vary, but the message is always the same - being one with God.
"We really focus around Eucharistic prayer and devotion to Mary," said Anita Myshak, the event coordinator. "They (participants) come in Friday night and by Sunday, they'll totally be transformed."
Devotion to Mary was emphasized at the weekend event with daily rosary, the Crowning of Mary and an international rosary recited in various languages.
"Mary is the personification of the Church," Father Sylvain Casavant, archdiocesan vocations director, said during his homily at Saturday's Mass. "She is not only the mother, she is like the grandmother who explains this story to us. She is our memory, she is our living memory.
There was a time when Justin Regnier, 15, would not have thought about attending any event focusing on God.
"Most people who know me think I'm nice," said the Airdrie resident. "But when I was a kid I was terrible, I was mean and everything."
Four years ago, on the insistence of his mother, Regnier attended Our Lady of Victory Camp in Bentley.
"I thought it was just going to be like going to church or something," he said. "And I was right cause it was a week of church."
But he also made a lot of friends that summer and learned a thing or two about what it meant to be Catholic.
"When I came here (Youth 2000), I wasn't here for the religious part of it, but because my friends were here. But then I went to Confession and to Communion and I really started feeling (Jesus') presence. It showed me that God loves me."
Among most of his school chums, Regnier pretty much stands alone in his profession of his faith. He attends St. Martin's High School and is immersed in the Catholic environment both at home and in school. But he still feels the pressure from his peers, many of whom "think it's stupid that I would go to something like this.
"They don't understand that it's Jesus Christ that you're accepting - and that's really important."
Alongside peer pressure to do drugs, alcohol or involvement in youthful stunts, proclaiming one's Christianity can make one the object of snide comments.
Many teens at Youth 2000 talked about the puzzled looks they get from friends and acquaintances who question the validity of faith in an all-powerful being call God.
"They're afraid of the pressures from their friends," said Pamela Prost, on why teens continue to shy away from Christianity. "They're afraid to meet God. They don't know what he's capable of."
Whether they knew Jesus or didn't, participants did not lack information on their faith. With talks and workshops lead by Fathers Casavant and Paul Moret of the Edmonton Archdiocese, and Franciscan Friars Father Terry Messer and Brother John Paul of New York, there was a slew of teachings to be heard.
"Sin is a messy subject," Moret said during his Saturday talk. "The reason we can talk about it is because there's a cure.
"A lot of people don't think sin is as bad as it is. They're wrong. The first thing we need to see is the seriousness of sin and how we need to be set free. We need to seek it out, find forgiveness."
There was a stream of participants lining up for Confession before, during and after Moret's talk. The small "how-to" strip of paper taped to the pres-dieu helped Starla Prost with her Confession. Although she had been going to Confession at least yearly since her First Communion eight years ago, Prost, "had a true Confession" Saturday night.
"I had a real Confession for the first time," she said. "It was overwhelming.
"I was at Adoration and usually I feel sad, but tonight I felt different. I felt cleaner."
Moret encouraged the teens to go to Confession regularly.
"When we come to the sacrament of Reconciliation, we're placing ourselves out there, we're humbling ourselves. That can be difficult, but the more we do it, the easier it gets. That is why I encourage people to go four or five times a year, hopefully we work our way up to monthly.
"We should never get comfortable with our sins."
The most sacred moment of the weekend was the Eucharistic Procession led by Messer. As the lights were turned off and the gymnasium was lit only by the dozens of candles, which had remained lit all weekend for around-the-clock Adoration, a silence swept across the youth as they knelt before the Blessed Sacrament.
Katherine Case, 18, was especially moved during the Eucharistic Procession.
"It's like having a bath," she said. "It's like you're totally cleansed. You're a new person. You're so overjoyed by all of it, you can't help crying."
Some of Case's friends don't understand her deep-rooted faith. "My friends think I'm some kind of goody-two shoes, but I think they're jealous because I get to go to things like this."
Each of the teens at the event had different reasons for attending. Some came because their friends were there. Some came because their parents sent them.
Jessica Loepp, 14, was shy about expressing her thoughts because her mom had sent her, but by Saturday night she discovered her weekend had not been wasted after all.
"I liked the music and the talks," she said. "But it was kind of sad. We heard about how (Jesus) was nailed on a cross - it was sad that he had to die that way.
"I know it's for our sins, but it's still sad."
And some came "to meet God."
"I did meet him this weekend," said Pamela Prost. "It was during the procession."
Messer attends at least one Youth 2000 event a month all over North America. He sees new faces in the crowd, but also familiar ones.
He's not expecting miracles at such events, although he is open to them too. And he knows that not everyone who attended will walk out the door transformed.
"Some kids, they had a good time, but it didn't sink in right away. But four years from now when they're in trouble or having problems, they'll remember. They'll think back and this will help them through it."