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Marist Youth Gathering

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This past May 23-26, 2014, Memorial Day Weekend in the USA, over 230 Marist youth and their school youth ministers assembled at Mount St. Mary College, Newburgh, New York, for the Marist Youth Gathering.  This four-day youth festival and leadership-building conference is a biennial event and brings together young people from Marist schools in the United States, Canada, and Mexico.  The Marist Youth Gathering is sponsored by the Province of the USA and organized by the Office of Evangelization.   

Young people and adults participating in the Marist Youth Gathering develop a wider understanding of their Marist identity, charism, and mission beyond their immediate school identity.  The activities include presentations and workshops, interactive games and initiatives, discussion and reflection groups, prayer and worship experiences, social and community building events— these are meant to transmit a sense of Marist heritage, family spirit and spirituality, while inspiring, motivating, and building confidence in youth willing to take up leadership roles in their schools and in the local Church.  This year’s theme was “To Jesus Thru Mary.” 

Br. Tony Leon, co-director of the secretariat for Brothers Today, was the Gathering’s main presenter.  He facilitated three presentations focusing on the stories of Fr. Champagnat and how the stories of each youth in attendance form the Marist story today; a Marial spirituality for young people today; and finally, how each is responsible to be Marist today.  Te Deum Ministries offered a multi-media, multi-dimensional program called “Array of Hope.” It included Christian rock and rap music, witness presentations, prayer and worship experiences, and a reflective visual presentation on the life of St. Marcellin Champagnat.  As part of the program, Luis Ramos, a Marist Young Adult, and leader of the province’s Marist Young Adult Advisory Committee offered a personal witness on how his commitment to Christ has grown through his involvement in Marist Youth Ministry.

Workshop presentations included, among others, a session of the upcoming International Mission Assembly in Nairobi, the use of the Labyrinth and Mandala as tools of prayer for young people, Ways of being Marist, and how adventure games and challenges can build family spirit.  One youth group offered a workshop on how they include teachers, school administrators, families and friends in their Marist youth program.  A skills-based, formation focused workshop was held for adult youth ministers on effective ways of listening and interacting with youth. 

Student groups from different schools planned morning and evening prayers. Eighteen university-age young adults participated in the conference assisting as group leaders.    Mr. Larry Kupferman, campus minister from St. Mary High School, Manhasset was the conference’s music minister and Mr. Brian Klimas, a Math teacher at Archbishop Molly High School, Briarwood was the conference emcee.  Fr. Richard LaMorte, Chaplain at Marist College, Poughkeepsie and an affiliate of the province, led the conference Sunday liturgy.  Following the Mass on Sunday evening, the participants enjoyed an outdoor BBQ and a dance.  The evening ended with a Taize prayer experience led by Br. Dan O’Riordan, a member of the province’s vocation team.

The conference closed on Monday (Memorial Day), May 26 with a solidarity event which remembered our Marist brothers and lay colleagues now suffering in Aleppo, Syria.  From all accounts, this year’s Marist Youth Gathering was a successful event.  The organizers are hopeful that much good will flow from the conference in the coming year.    

Br Dominick Pujia

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