Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 18, 2007
Youth express commitment to Christ at Mannafest
Many drop pledges into Ark; others feel call to religious life
By RAMON GONZALEZ
- WCR photo by Ramon Gonzalez
Susanne Sehn, 17, of Medicine Hat crowns a statue of Mary.
Participants also sang, danced, played sports like soccer and ultimate frisbee, learned about their faith and shared with each other.
Archbishop Richard Smith, who presided at the Youth Mannafest's concluding liturgy June 10, the feast of Corpus Christi, praised the youth for taking part in the weekend festival.
"Good for you. You have taken a whole weekend to be with the Lord and in the Lord to be with one another," he told them in his homily. "I hope that as you deepen your knowledge and your love for the Eucharist you take very seriously what the Eucharist is - a tap on the shoulder, a call to be one with Jesus."
In the Eucharist Jesus is truly present and this presence is always dynamic, never static, Smith explained.
"To say that the bread and the wine are transformed into the Body and Blood of Jesus is to say that he is truly present with us here and now," he stressed. "When we receive Communion it means that we are being called here and now to be united with Jesus."
The archbishop reminded the youth that God calls people to all types of vocations, including priesthood, religious life and marriage. But to avoid "falling into the trap of confusing what I want with the Lord's will," he encouraged them to stay close to Jesus, to Mary and to the Church.
Smith also asked the youngsters to pray with him that the ark's visit will be an occasion "really to embrace and learn the truth of what the Eucharist is and in this way renew the life of the Church."
When organizers called for personal testimonies, James Riley, who plays bass guitar for Anaphora, reported a miraculous experience. Since October his left foot had been swollen with an oxalate acid crystal buildup. The discomfort was driving him crazy.
During a procession at the festival the night of June 9 - when Father Stephen Hero was processing with the Blessed Sacrament in the monstrance - the 28-year-old Riley, like all participants, touched the humeral veil and asked Jesus that his foot be healed.
"The swelling and the discomfort were gone."
- James Riley
"When I stood up, my sandal was loose on my foot," Riley said. "The swelling and the discomfort were gone. The only thing that could have happened is that Jesus - the divine healer - relieved that build up of oxalate acid."
Riley considers himself fortunate not just because his foot got healed but because he got to spend the whole weekend in Jesus' presence and to use his gifts and abilities to praise God through music.
The Ark of the New Covenant, he said, is like the World Youth Day Cross. "It serves us as a good visual reminder of what is to come." His written pledge, which he placed into the ark, is to get to know God better and to attend Mass daily.
Warren Painchaud, a 15-year-old from Gibbons, came to the festival to praise God, learn more about the faith and have fellowship with other Catholics. It paid off.
"Coming to something like this makes you feel solid in your faith and just makes you believe stronger," he said. "It really transforms you. It was an exciting, fun, faith-filled weekend."
"More than anything he gave peace of mind."
- Erin Stewart
Painchaud called the ark "an excellent idea" because it will teach people about the Eucharist. On a small piece of paper in the form of a fish he wrote a pledge - to be a better person and to be faithful to God - and dropped it into the ark.
"It was an amazing weekend," said Edmonton's Trina Kosakewich, one of the 25 youth who stood up when Father Paul Moret, director of vocations for the archdiocese, asked if anyone was feeling called to a vocation.
"I came because I want to grow closer to God in my faith and growth as a person. I want to be one with God and be able to share the gifts that he gives me with others in whatever way I can."
Kosakewich, 19, feels God is pulling her in a certain direction but is not sure.
"I want to be open to whatever vocation or direction he wants me to go in," she said. "I am in a time in my life where I'm just trying to figure out what God really wants and this just helps me to put God first instead of myself."
- WCR photo by Ramon Gonzalez
Elizabeth Morris, 15 of Edmonton and Andrea Berube, 15, of Beaumont pray the rosary.
The main thing Kosakewich learned at the festival is "to place God at the centre of everything and try to find Jesus in every single person." And that is the commitment she placed into the ark.
"This weekend has been so amazing, so enriching I feel like I'm bursting with joy; I can't wait to get out and share it with everyone," said 17-year-old Erin Stewart of St. Albert.
While kneeling in front of the monstrance the previous night Stewart asked God what his plans were for her.
"Do you want me to live the married life or to become a (religious) sister?" she asked. "He didn't give a direct response but when the monstrance was coming around and I touched the cloth he flooded me and gave this peace of mind.
"He said, 'Erin I'm with you; everything is going to be okay.'"
Stewart, a member of Holy Family Parish in St. Albert, still has no idea what her vocation is but the youngster is open to whatever God throws her way.
"I feel almost like he is going to call me to the married life but I'm not sure still," she said in an interview. "More than anything he gave peace of mind. If he wants me to be a sister I'll be happy doing that. If he wants me to be married, I'll be happy doing that."
Seeing and touching the ark was an amazing experience for Stewart, who wrote and placed a unique pledge into the wooden chest. "I committed myself to saying a chaplet of Divine Mercy every night before going to bed and to say the rosary at least once a week," she said.
Coordinator Patricia Stephen believes the retreat achieved its purpose because "it touched many hearts. They felt God's presence," she said.
The Youth Mannafest retreat has been taking place in the archdiocese and around the world since the mid-1990s. It is in response to Pope John Paul's 1989 call to youth to "bear witness to the faith."
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