Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of September 20, 2004
Mannafest enlivens the faith of youth
15 young people state interest in religious vocations
By BILL GLEN
WCR Staff Writer
The Word of God is alive in all of us just as the Son of God was once inside the Virgin Mary.
We are fortunate to experience it alive and kicking because we can celebrate Jesus Christ on many more occasions than could Mary, said Franciscan Father Robert Stanion to a boisterous gathering of 150 young Albertans who attended the Youth Mannafest prayer festival Sept. 10-12 at the St. Basil's Cultural Centre.
"Mary gave birth to Jesus once, but each of you can give birth to Jesus over and over again," Stanion said. "Isn't the Church always giving birth to Christians?"
The Franciscan Friar of the Renewal told the gathering that Mary will lead them to life, to the Holy Trinity.
"Love is the presence of God in a person," he said. "Conceived without sin, Mary was the new Eve. She is a model for all of us. She taught us that once you open your life to God, he is in your life forever."
When Lise Schoenberger attended the first Mannafest 10 years ago, she decided, as a 14-year-old, that her life would best be served by sharing the riches of the kingdom with other youth.
Along with Tammy Murza, Schoenberger, 24, coordinated Youth Mannafest and even before it was completed, she was looking ahead to 2005.
"It's been absolutely fantastic. I have grown quite a bit in my own spiritual life and through doing youth ministry for nine years, it has been awesome to see the growth in the kids," said Schoenberger.
Youth Mannafest is a Eucharist-centred weekend celebration designed to draw young Albertans closer to God.
The retreat includes talks and workshops, recitation of the rosary, spirited music, quiet reflection and all-night adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. "About 50 people stayed for the adoration. That was incredible," Schoenberger said.
Schoenberger admits that 10 years ago, she would never have seen herself helping to coordinate the event. But by doing so, she has a deeper understanding of her faith, of Mary, and knowing more about the Catholic Church.
"It is my foundation; my base," she said. "The youth are being given so many tools to participate in the Mass."
While the number of participants was down slightly from previous years, the devotion and energy of those who participated impressed Murza. "You get a spark and you fly and you just don't seem to come down," she said.
"The youth learn how to pray. Because this is a prayer festival centred around the Eucharist, they learn that the body of Christ is the Eucharist," Murza said. "Christ is touching them. They realize he is not just a person all around us, but a person walking with us, hand in hand. He is in us and working through us."
Rene Rouleau, 25, said his mother convinced him to discern for himself whether he would serve the Lord.
About 10 years ago, the Rouleaus were driving home from Church when Rene found himself complaining he no longer liked going to Mass. His mother turned around and told him he had to make a decision.
"I think she put the fear of God into me. At that point, I told myself I would do it."
Rouleau and Angela Kurzitza helped to co-emcee the event.
"Mannafest is the highlight of my year," said Kurzitza, a Grade 12 student at St. Francis Xavier High. "I always learn something new about myself and my faith is strengthened every year. I've learned how to be open about my faith and how to find the friends I'm looking for. I have found many of them here."
Rouleau said he was dead tired from driving back and forth between St. Albert and Calgary the last three weeks to begin school, but when he witnessed the enthusiasm of the youth, it energized him.
"I was so alive. You feed off them because they are there for Christ. They are touched by the Eucharist."
Father Paul Moret, director of vocations for the Edmonton Archdiocese, led an altar call near the end of the festival asking the youth to search within themselves to see if they felt called to the priesthood or religious life.
Moret said about 15 people expressed an interest in a religious vocation.