Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of April 5, 2004
Youth choose to follow Jesus
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Shouting praises to God as he held his guitar, dynamic speaker Jesse Manibusan electrified the teens gathered for the Youth Catholic Conference March 26.
Every time he shouted, "God is good," his excited audience invariably replied, "All the time."
Through songs, stories and humour Manibusan, a lay evangelist from Grapevine, Texas, captured the teens' attention and drove home the point that being a follower of Jesus with conscious, active participation is the highest goal in life.
He urged the teens to develop a friendship with Jesus and to teach others to be excited about their faith.
"We've got to pay attention, be aware, be vigilant. Following Jesus is not about instinct. We have to learn how to follow," he said. "Following Jesus is not about being perfect but following purposefully."
Nearly 1,000 Grade 9-12 students from across Alberta and the Northwest Territories attended the conference at the Shaw Conference Centre, which was put together by the Alberta Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Alberta Catholic Schools' Trustees Association. The youth event was part of the weekend-long Catholic Conference 2004.
Manibusan, a musician and comedian, was keynote speaker at the youth conference, whose theme was Empowered by Love: Echo the Promise. He opened for World Youth Day in Toronto in 2002.
The hefty bleach blond musician wore high top sneakers, shorts and a yellow T-shirt emblazoned with a happy face. He stood out in the crowd. But his appearance was part of his message: No matter how different you seem to be, God believes in you and loves you.
"Love and forgive one another," he told his young audience. "People will recognize you by your love and your hope." He also reminded the youth that as children of God they will be loved despite their mistakes. "You are not a problem for the Church, you are a gift to the Church."
In his lectures Manibusan encouraged youth to be radical about their faith, to let it be their foundation, and to lead by example. "As people of faith we are part of something beyond ourselves," he said. "Our lives and what we do matters. Persons of love and persons of hope are what we are called to be."
Playing his guitar, Manibusan incorporated song and stories throughout his presentations.
He stressed he doesn't have anything new to say but rather wants to remind forgetful Catholics of their responsibility as followers of Christ. "We've got to renew, we've got to revisit the Church and we've got to resuscitate our faith."
But faith alone is not enough, he added. "As a follower of Jesus Christ you can't just believe. Anybody can believe but believing isn't going to change a thing. You have to act."
Manibusan said it's necessary for young Catholics to act on their faith because there isn't enough peace, justice and compassion in this world.
"If you walk by a person in a wheelchair and stop and say, 'Hey, what's your name?' you are standing for Jesus and you are teaching others to do the same," he said.
"If you are talking trash about those who don't fit in, . . . you are not acting like a follower of Jesus."
But being a follower of Jesus is a choice and those who want to change the world must make that choice, he said. "Are you going to follow Jesus or not. Choose!"
"Follow Jesus," his audience replied.
"Because I choose."
They gave the same reply when Manibusan asked them if they wanted to be people of love, hope and compassion. Why? "Because I choose," the young people said in unison.
Manibusan holds that being Catholic is a privilege with great responsibility.
The highest goal is the love of Christ - all of us living, working, serving, healing, laughing, crying, and being people of God together, he said. "Open your eyes to God; that's what it is all about."
Young people were impressed by what they saw and heard. "Jesse showed us that God loves us and that God shows love and compassion toward each and every person," said Jonathan White from St. Mary's High School in Calgary.
Nathan LaBerge, a Grade 10 student from Blessed Sacrament School In Wainwright, was also impressed. "His message is not like the other messages. He actually gave us like a plan of action."
Letter to the Editor - 04/05/04