By Katie Cerni | Digital & Social Media Coordinator
Catholic families and youth from around the state gathered May 20 at Six Flags Great Adventure, Jackson, for a day of fun, fellowship and prayer during the 23rd annual New Jersey Catholic Youth Rally.
“It was great seeing how many Catholics are here and how we can all come together as one besides all of our differences or the way we look,” said Mirelis Villegas, a teen from St. Joseph Parish, Trenton. “We all have the same faith and we all believe in one thing.”
Photo Gallery: NJ Catholic Youth Rally
The annual event, coordinated by the Dioceses of Trenton, Metuchen, Camden and Paterson, along with the Archdiocese of Newark, drew around 2,000 participants ranging in age from young families to parish youth ministries and leaders. They spent the day riding roller coasters and having lunch with friends in faith before attending Mass in the amusement’s park arena.
“It’s a nice way to show that prayer can happen anywhere and it can be at different places for everybody,” said Samuel Shapiro, a member of the youth ministry in St. Aloysius Parish, Jackson.
For many, the event is a time-honored tradition, drawing them back for many years in a row. For some, like Michael Del Duca of Our Lady of Perpetual Help-St. Agnes Parish, Atlantic Highlands, this year marked the first time he had attended the youth rally – and Great Adventure as well.
“This is cool because you get to see that other younger people are involved in the Church,” Del Duca said, also remarking that he is an altar server in his parish, “so I just get to experience the Mass today.”
Danielle Froslear, youth minister in St. Pius X Parish, Forked River, agreed.
“This is obviously something that is not a normal Sunday for them, so to go to Mass outside and be with all of these other teens from the state is something different and something they like to do,” she said, adding that this is the second year the parish youth ministry has attended the rally.
This year’s rally was hosted by the Diocese of Metuchen, and as such, Father James De Fillipps, campus minister for the Catholic Center at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, was the principal celebrant for the Mass, which was bilingual.
Seven priests from parishes and schools across the state concelebrated: Msgr. Joseph Curry, pastor in Immaculate Conception, Spotswood; Father Paul Tomczyk, chaplain of William Patterson University, Wayne; Father Kevin Kilgore, parochial vicar in Our Lady of Mount Virgin, Garfield; Father Stephen Carey, pastor in St. Mary, Dumont, and Father Yasid Salas, parochial vicar in St. Margaret of Scotland, Morristown. Deacon Rick Fortune of the Cathedral of St. Francis of Assisi, Metuchen, assisted.
In his homily, preached on Pentecost, Father De Fillipps reminded the youth of their important role in the Church, saying, “Without you … the Church would not be here.”
Father De Fillipps also focused on the importance of the Holy Spirit in the lives of those in attendance.
“The third person of the Trinity is what sets us ablaze,” he said. “Think about your excitement as you scream what Diocese you’re from; take that excitement and bottle it and move it into the realm of faith … [Pentecost] is not a historical event, it is now and we are calling down the Spirit every single day within the sacramental life of the Church. … We are celebrating the active role of the Holy Spirit that is present, ready, willing and able to move our hearts and our minds so that we can renew the face of the earth.”