Youth Mass celebrates student leaders across diocese

Program recognizes teens taking part in DYMAC, other diocesan youth organizations

HONORING LEADERSHIP Bishop Richard F. Stika presents Allyssa Raspa of St. Therese of Lisieux Church in Cleveland with a cross to mark her role as a youth leader. Allyssa received a Discipleship award during the Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Knoxville. Photo by Bill Brewer

Teens from across the Diocese of Knoxville who are emerging as youth leaders were recognized for their participation in Church-related organizations during the 2012 Diocesan Youth Mass at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Knoxville.

Bishop Richard F. Stika was celebrant at the Sept. 8 Mass, which also was attended by the student leaders’ peers and parents as well as volunteers from the diocese’s four deaneries. Concelebrating at the Mass were vicar general Monsignor Xavier Mankel, Father Randy Stice and Father Christian Mathis. Deacons Dan Hosford and Jim Fage assisted.

Bishop Stika told the students the Youth Mass is for the diocese to “say to our young sisters and brothers of faith, thank you for the desire to take a leadership role in the Church. Thank you for being Jesus Christ in your high school or in your parish.”
“Thank you for maybe teaching adults who can become so cynical that faith is something very much alive. Thank you for just being a person of faith,” he said during his homily.

Bishop Stika, relating the miracle that Jesus performed in healing a man brought to him who was virtually mute and deaf, challenged the teens to not be in the silent majority but instead speak out for those treated unjustly, who live in poverty, children yet to be born, immigrants, and others whose voices may not be heard.

“What I say to you is don’t forget that you have an obligation to sometimes teach the adults who have forgotten what it means to be a Catholic, or a Christian, or a person of faith, a person who has lost hope, a person who is just kind of going with the system. That’s what the power of teenagers can do … remind us about choices and about life and about risk sometimes, but also about the gift of hope,” Bishop Stika said.

In his homily, the bishop remarked that the youths being recognized are part of a diocese that celebrated its 24th anniversary on Sept. 8 and that has grown from 22,000 parishioners, a few priests and a few parishes to nearly 70,000 parishioners served by 70 priests in the Chattanooga, Five Rivers, Cumberland Mountain, and Smoky Mountain deaneries.

“But the Church is not just that; the Church is you. The prophetic mission of the Church is you proclaiming Jesus Christ…,” he said, pointing out that the days ahead for them are filled with hope, possibilities, potential, and the opportunity to teach others about Jesus Christ.

“I just want to thank you for your willingness and your desire to make a difference over the course of this next year. My brothers and sisters, I pray that you never forget that you are the voice of Jesus Christ. You are the face of Jesus Christ if you live out your faith. And you are the hands of Jesus when you help build up his kingdom and remind the rest of us of the beauty of life, the great gift of potential and possibility that is blessed by hope. Coming together this day, let us ever be thankful for what God has given to us. Let us always be thankful for the gift of faith,” Bishop Stika told the students.

Al Forsythe, who heads the diocese’s Youth and Young Adult Ministry, introduced the youths being recognized for their leadership and the adults who work with the teens on leadership development.

Mr. Forsythe said Deacon Dan Hosford is instrumental in coordinating the youth events as is Karen
Byrne of the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry.

“We want to recognize the youth for their work but also recognize them for being role models,” he said. “The kids really take ownership of this event. It motivates them to get involved in the life of the diocese.”

He said more than 170 youths and adults participated in the Youth Mass and dinner/social program that followed. He credited leaders of the diocese for taking such an active role with the youth.

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