Jesus, Archbishop John Nienstedt, and almost 2,000 of the “greatest people in the world” were “marooned” on an island Sept. 15 for a day of worship, learning and celebration.
No, it wasn’t a new reality TV show — rather, it was the archbishop’s perfect description of the first annual Archdiocesan Youth Day at DeLaSalle High School, located on Nicollet Island in Minneapolis.
Archbishop Nienstedt welcomed the contingent of high school-aged Catholics from across the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis to rediscover and share their “reason for hope” — Jesus Christ.
Over the course of the seven-hour celebration of faith, young Catholics listened to several dynamic speakers, attended Mass with Archbishop Nienstedt, received the sacrament of reconciliation, enjoyed uplifting music by Sonar, and honored Jesus’ presence during a candlelit adoration procession.
Keynote speaker Father Mike Schmitz, director of youth/young adult ministry in the Diocese of Duluth, challenged the youth to embrace Jesus as their hope and their purpose. “Is Jesus just another T-shirt in your drawer? You put him on one day and take him off the next?,” he asked. “Let the Lord be your tattoo — irrevocably — forever.”
Youth were encouraged to text questions to Archbishop Nienstedt for a question-and-answer session moderated by Father Erik Lundgren, associate priest at Divine Mercy in Faribault.
Responding to specific questions, Archbishop Nienstedt talked about his call to the priesthood, what he likes to do in his free time (read, watch movies, take a walk every morning), his favorite sport (hockey), his favorite prayers (Our Father, Memorare), and his thoughts about country singer Taylor Swift (“I think she’s awesome.”)
He also addressed more serious topics, such as the importance of defending the Catholic Church’s teaching about marriage and how to respond in a Christ-like way to a peer who has “come out” as someone with same-sex attraction.
Archbishop Nienstedt said his greatest hope for the youth was for them to grow in their faith and to be participating members in the Body of Christ.
A Twitter feed for the day captured some of the experiences of the youth.
“That was one of the most amazing experiences of my life,” tweeted one participant.
“Adoration made me tear up. He is with us,” said another.
Two participants, reacting to the day’s positive messages, said they learned that “I deserve to be loved” and “I have worth” in a world that often promotes messages antithetical to the Gospel.
“The most powerful thing I experienced today was one of the priest’s speeches when he talked about putting God at the center of your life,” Elissa Kapusinski of St. John the Baptist in Savage told The Catholic Spirit. “It really made me think about how I need to put God at the center of my life.”
“All the talks are making me know more about what my faith is . . . so I can live it better and be a holier [person],” said Cole Scherber, a ninth-grader from Mary, Queen of Peace in Rogers.
Next year, Archdiocesan Youth Day will be held Sept. 21.
Among organizations that contributed financially to help make Archdiocesan Youth Day possible were the presenting sponsors, University of St. Thomas and St. Catherine University; major sponsors, The St. Paul Seminary and Benedictine College in Atchison, Kan.; and sponsors, Catholic United Financial and St. Mary’s University of Minnesota.
Partners for the day included Partnership for Youth, TEC Twin Cities and NET Ministries.