Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of November 3, 2003
Teens wake up, see the glory
Catholic youth told by singer to find the poor in their midst
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Hundreds of loud and enthusiastic Catholic teens packed Archbishop O'Leary School on Edmonton's north side Oct. 25 for a day filled with music, prayer, and games and dancing.
Some 700 students from Grades 7 to 12 showed up for the 10th annual archdiocesan youth rally, which featured Colorado-based youth evangelist and singer Steve Angrisano and his unique blend of laughter, song, story and often-hilarious audience interaction.
Wake Up and See the Glory was the theme of the fun- and faith-filled event, whose purpose is to allow young people to experience Jesus' love in relationship with others.
Archbishop Thomas Collins celebrated Mass for the teens, some of whom participated in the celebration as readers, altar servers, ministers of the word and singers. Then the youngsters burned the last of their energies dancing.
"The idea (behind the rally) is to give young people a positive experience of the Catholic faith," explained event organizer Roger Lamoureux, the archdiocesan coordinator of youth ministry. "This is an opportunity for them to experience the love of God and also to gather with other young people to show that they are not alone."
By focusing the day on the theme Wake Up and See the Glory, "we are trying to have the teens realize that Jesus is with them in everything they do, that they just have to open their eyes to see Christ in their everyday life," Lamoureux said. "Jesus is present in the people around us but also in us."
Angrisano, a renowned evangelist and professional singer for 15 years, expanded on the theme throughout his three presentations, using stories and music to make his point. Every time he sang he invited teens to come up on the stage to enact the songs or simply dance. The rest of the audience would dance and sing along.
A contemporary Catholic musician who sang for the pope in Denver in 1993, Angrisano sang several of his own songs plus older, better-known songs the teens are familiar with such as Awesome God and Lean on Me. He even played some country gospel tunes while the teens danced on the gym floor.
One of Angrisano's stories brought the message that it doesn't take much to make a difference in someone's life. Once while playing football for the University of Texas he injured a knee and ended up on crutches. It was difficult for him to open doors, but out of nowhere came this man who rushed to open a door for him when he saw him struggling.
"Mother Teresa said, 'Do ordinary things with extraordinary love,' and I think that's what I saw in that moment," Angrisano said. "I don't know why he did it. I don't know who he was but I know it made me question in my heart, why would somebody do that."
During his presentation, Angrisano also reminded his audience of what Mother Teresa said to those wanting to go to Calcutta to help her help the poor. "She would say, 'Go find your own Calcutta' and I think she was right," the evangelist said. "We are called to find the poor in our midst, wherever we are."
Angrisano also made the point that God is real. "Our God is not a God who watches us from a distance," he told his young audience. "He is here among us. That's the God we have, a God who is among us. And so if God is real then we are called to live differently. If we believe that's true then we have to act like it."
In an interview, Angrisano, a father of three, described his message as one of love and consistency. "I want to encourage young people to make real in their lives the things we say we believe in as Catholics. Most people here would say it is important to love one another but I think that, especially for teenagers, there is a disconnect between what we say and what we do. I want to help them see the value in the sacrifice of doing the right thing every time."
Participating teens were divided into 37 "family" groups, each of which would go into a classroom to discuss Angrisano's stories and message. Some groups would enact the message through skits and plays. Younger teens would also play games in the rooms.
Stephanie Sheehan, a 12-year-old from Villeneuve, said she got a lot more than she bargained for. "I had a lot of fun and met a lot of new friends. I also learned how to be a better Christian. I think it's kind of cool that he (Angrisano) is telling us stories of love and sacrifice."