Youth Mass participants bring ‘vibrancy and energy’

Awards are presented, and the new Diocesan Youth Ministry Advisory Council members are commissioned

By Bill Brewer

“Do not be afraid” is the message Diocese of Knoxville teen leaders received Oct. 28 when they gathered at St. Albert the Great Church for the annual diocesan Youth Mass.

However, Mass celebrant Father Chris Michelson placed additional challenges before the high school students, challenges God places before all of us: Do not be afraid to listen when you hear and see when you look.

Taking his lead from the Gospel readings that weekend, Father Michelson let the teens know that God has high expectations for them and will always be with them.

But there also was a warning.

Quoting from Jeremiah—“You are in captivity because you did not listen to me”—Father Michelson cautioned the students against making the same mistake as those followers of God who had ignored Him.

The St. Albert the Great pastor told the teens the lesson to glean from Jeremiah is bring people to the Lord. The pastor praised the youth for taking leadership roles in the Church among their peers and encouraged them to lead friends and strangers in their classrooms and school hallways closer to God.

The some 250 youth from around the Diocese of Knoxville present for the Mass are active in their parishes and schools, and many of them take active roles in the Diocesan Youth Ministry Advisory Council. The DYMAC representatives plan youth events in the diocese, such as summer God Camps, the Catholic Youth Camp, the Winter Middle School Retreat, the youth Mass, and the National Catholic Youth Conference. They work with deanery coordinators of youth ministry and Deacon Al Forsythe, the director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry for the Diocese of Knoxville.

“I thank you for being here and for what you already do for our diocese and will continue to do to help our Church be a very vibrant Church,” Father Michelson said. “You bring so much vibrancy and so much energy to the Church.”

Pointing to those who were in captivity who ignored God’s message, Father Michelson implored the teens to not be among the ones who heard God’s words but did not listen to them.

Father Michelson’s guidance, based on the Scriptures, included God’s expectation that His children lead others, including those who are most in need—the “remnants”—to Him.

“Sometimes we get so caught up in ‘my journey,’ ‘what I’m going to do,’ that we forget to bring the rest of us to Him; to help them become part of us,” Father Michelson said. “So every Sunday when you go to Mass in your parish, listen. God has a message for the people back then, but for each of us, too. So we have to ask ourselves, ‘How am I going to reach and help the remnants to the Lord?’

“It’s easy if you’re the youth group to bring all who could come. You all are already in the youth group, and you already want to be there. You all love the Lord. What about the rest? Does anybody here in your parish have every one of your youth at youth meetings? Does every one of your youth come to Mass? Why are we not inviting them, clearing the road, bringing the remnants and say, ‘Come to the Lord’? It’s a great challenge. It’s a challenge Jeremiah gave for his 50 years of leading his people. It’s the same message over and over,” he added.

Pointing out that his Youth Mass congregants are used to hearing and seeing instruction, the longtime Diocese of Knoxville priest’s lesson for the teens was to listen, not simply hear, and to see beyond what is presented before them.

“Seeing has nothing to do with sight. Seeing is recognizing God’s plan. What do we do when we pray? What do we ask for?” Father Michelson asked. “The readings always challenge us. They challenge us to listen. They challenge us to see. Because God is constantly revealing His plan before us. You don’t have to be old with gray hair; you don’t have to be ordained a priest or deacon; you don’t even have to be a parent. The Lord knows in each of us where we are at every moment of our lives. The Lord speaks to each one of you.

“He comes to you. And so you should ask, ‘Do I listen? Do I see what God’s plan is?’”

Deacon Forsythe and Beth Parsons, a deanery coordinator for the Youth and Young Adult Ministry, recognized a number of student leaders for their achievements.

The 2018 St. Timothy Award, which is the highest recognition the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry and the Diocese of Knoxville confers on high school youth that is given to a student who generously serves their peers and youth ministry with dedication and demonstrates a selfless commitment of service to youth ministry, was presented to Joseph Motto of St. Albert the Great Parish in Knoxville.

2018 recipients of the Discipleship Award are Bernice Luquin of St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Erwin; Jacob King of Immaculate Conception in Knoxville; Katie McConnell and Anna Barbosa of St. Thérèse of Lisieux in Cleveland; and Regina Wol and Elizabeth Ellsworth of Our Lady of Fatima in Alcoa.

2018 recipients of the Light of the World Award are Darlene Riddle and James Riddle of St. Michael the Archangel; Natalea Riley of Immaculate Conception; Brendon Foley and Joel Finnell of St. Thérèse of Lisieux; and Amy Steverson and Dave Rath of Our Lady of Fatima.

Father Michelson and Deacon Forsythe presided at the DYMAC commissioning ceremony following Mass. Diocesan students who have demonstrated service and leadership to their faith communities and have agreed to take on a role as a communication liaison to the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry are:

  • Isabella Reynoso, Natalia Hernandez, Noah Ellis, Darlin Navarro, and Havana Mitrik of the Five Rivers Deanery;
  • Anna Barbosa, Lizette Juarez, Jason Oliver, Matias Ron, Kimberly Ramos, Morgan Hicks, James Miles, Timothy Held, and Kat Moates of the Chattanooga Deanery;
  • Meghan Campbell, Bethany Quilty, Lauren Schenk, Jose Contreras, Marigrace Tidwell, Hannah Wilder, and Terrence Osorio of the Cumberland Mountain Deanery;
  • Regina Wol, Elizabeth Ellsworth, William Carter, Czarina Palcone, and Jacob King of the Smoky Mountain Deanery.

“Thank you for being here to celebrate the accomplishments of all our young people in our parishes throughout our diocese. For the past eight years that I’ve been serving as the diocesan director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry, it’s always my pleasure to come to an event like this and give a shout-out to our young people throughout the diocese who are doing some amazing work in our different parishes. So we gather together to celebrate that and join in praise and thanksgiving for all that they do and give them a little recognition as well,” Deacon Forsythe said.

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