Annual Youth 2000 retreat helps youth and young adults connect to love and mercy of Jesus

Story and Photos by

Joan Kurkowski-Gillen

Correspondent

May 22, 2012

Brother Maximilian Stelmachowski, CFR, helps his young listeners understand how Jesus is present in their lives during a Saturday morning talk.

When Joe Magnetico is patrolling the streets of East Fort Worth, he carries a duty belt with equipment needed to keep others — and himself — safe. But there is something else the police rookie wears for protection. Underneath the blue uniform of the Fort Worth Police Department is a scapular.

“It’s not a good luck charm,” the 27-year-old is quick to explain. “But it has saved my life in a lot of ways.”

During his teenage years, Magnetico admits he wasn’t a firmly-rooted Catholic. He credits the Blessed Mother for keeping him in the Church and giving his life direction.

“I prayed to God and Mary for guidance and they kept bringing me to this,” he said referring to his job with the police force.

Today, the recent police academy graduate patrols a low-income neighborhood where he finds joy in helping the underprivileged.

The St. Elizabeth Ann Seton parishioner shared his reawakening to faith and prayer with others during the annual Youth 2000 retreat April 13-15 at Nolan High School. Designed for 13- to 30-year-olds, the spiritual weekend helps young people develop a close, personal relationship with Jesus Christ through Eucharistic Adoration, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, Mass, and upbeat music. The Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, who conduct the retreat in conjunction with the Diocese of Fort Worth, offer inspirational talks and personal testimonies.

To keep young minds focused on God, the assembly sits around an imposing, tiered platform of candles that supports a gold monstrance and consecrated host. For many participants, the highlight of the weekend is the Saturday evening Eucharistic procession when the priest removes the monstrance from its altar and carries it through the crowd. The rite reinforces the belief that God is real and truly present in their lives.

Brother Maximilian Stelmachowski, CFR, helps his young listeners understand how Jesus is present in their lives during a Saturday morning talk.

“Jesus is who he says He is,” Father Juan Diego, CFR, assured an audience of more than 1,000 people during a Saturday morning talk. “He is Lord. Jesus is God made man.”

Standing in front of his young listeners, the robed friar said philosophers and theologians have spilled a lot of ink trying to answer the question, “Why would God want to become man?” The answer is simple.

“It’s one word — love,” the speaker stated. “Jesus comes to show us the way back to the Father. He came to show us how we should live our lives.”

WWJD, an abbreviation for the catch phrase, “What Would Jesus Do,” has become the target for pop culture jokes and sarcasm. Instead of ridicule, it’s a question that should shape your life, the missionary priest pointed out.

“If Jesus is God, what He says should make an impact on the choices you make,” Fr. Juan added. “We should examine every action in our life according to that question.”

For Kristin Wise, coordinator of youth ministry for Sts. Simon and Jude Church in The Woodlands, bringing a group to Youth 2000 is a ritual she’s maintained for the past nine years. The Houston area teens look forward to the annual event and raise money to cover lodging expenses and travel to Fort Worth. Organizing the long distance trip is worth the effort because young people find something they’re looking for during the weekend, she said.

“The retreat offers the truth and our kids are hungry — so hungry for the truth. They can tell when someone is insincere,” Wise asserted.

Youth 2000 shows them a new way to look at the Rosary, Mass, Reconciliation, and other basic Catholic practices.

“They see how much the friars and rest of the community love their faith and want to share it,” she added. “It’s a genuine experience.”

Nineteen-year-old Christian Pardo, a first-time participant in Youth 2000, came to the retreat to deepen his relationship with God. Confined to a wheelchair because of a chronic pain condition, the St. Patrick parishioner has asked God a lot of questions since his diagnosis.

“I know God has a plan for me,” says Pardo, a newcomer to his parish’s young adult ministry program. “I think Youth 2000 is going to help me understand what that is.”

When Joe Magnetico is patrolling the streets of East Fort Worth, he carries a duty belt with equipment needed to keep others — and himself — safe. But there is something else the police rookie wears for protection. Underneath the blue uniform of the Fort Worth Police Department is a scapular. “It’s not a good luck charm,” the 27-year-old is quick to explain. “But it has saved my life in a lot of ways.”

Published (until 1/9/2115)
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