Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom
By Emily Hernandez
It was an amazing experience to witness youth encountering Jesus in the sacrament of reconciliation at the Freedom event this year. For many of them, this was their first involvement with Freedom and they were unsure of what to expect.
They gave God their “yes” by stepping out in faith into a new experience, and God used that in big ways.
Through the talks, worship music, prayer, and sacrament of reconciliation, the youth were deeply impacted by the merciful love of Jesus. We learned that Jesus set us free from our sin when he gave himself up on the cross, and that he still offers that mercy to us today.
Together we proclaimed the lyrics “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is Freedom!” as we sang and danced for Jesus. We heard powerful words from Archbishop Miller, Father Francesco, and joyful young adult speakers. We hung out and met other youth from across the diocese. And above all, we encountered Jesus in the sacrament of reconciliation.
The young people were beaming as they shared with me their experience of going to the “best confession they have ever had.” Many shared that they had never experienced “face-to-face” confession before and had always thought it would be scary.
They were surprised to discover that “it was just like having a good conversation!” and said from now on they would prefer to receive reconciliation in this way. It was a whole new perspective on confession: seeing it as a free gift of God’s love and not something they “had to do.”
Freedom is a powerful event that invites youth into something deeper, an encounter with the real person of Jesus Christ. It is so important for the youth of this generation to realize that Jesus offers his mercy as a gift to each individual person.
No matter what you have done or where you have been, no sin is too great for Jesus to forgive. At Freedom, youth get to receive that forgiveness and begin again in grace.
Emily Hernandez is a youth ministry coordinator at St. Luke’s Parish in Maple Ridge.
Rejoicing over the sacraments
By Rocelyn Catris
It was great to see much excitement from our teens when we were just about to leave parish grounds to head to St. Clare of Assisi Parish in Coquitlam! They were thrilled to see each other and meet other teens from other parishes. Some of them mentioned that their last confession was at Christmas. Thank God they are receiving this precious sacrament this Lent season!
At the event, we were welcomed with joyful praise songs and touched by a very powerful video. One youth was so moved that she highly encouraged me to show this video in our teen gatherings, so that others who were not with us can still see it.
The Eucharistic adoration with praise songs was very uplifting. Our teens were singing too. It’s certainly a gift to see all youth in our group head to confession, returning to their seats with a smile! They were washed clean!
I was the last in our group to go to confession, and the priest was one of God’s gifts that night. The priest spoke the words that I needed to hear, and my heart was filled with joy and hope. Though I missed the snacks, my soul was full, and I was content. I greatly noticed a difference in the way that I and the teens sang before and after Eucharistic adoration and confession. I heard a lot of rejoicing voices after experiencing the two sacraments!
Just when I thought that the evening was over, Father Francesco Voltaggio joined us with his humour and humility. We were deeply reminded of God the Father’s great mercy for all of us – no matter what we have done or who we think we are. His sharing was amazing! What God has done in his life is truly an inspiration for the young Church.
I sincerely hope that our experiences at Freedom this year will stay in our hearts and remind us when we need it most.
Rocelyn Catris is the youth and young adult ministry coordinator at St. Mary’s Parish in Vancouver.