Despite temperatures in the mid-20s and a freezing drizzle, nearly 200 teenagers and accompanying adults processed through the city of Portland on Sunday, April 15, in a public display of their faith.
The procession began at the Holiday Inn by the Bay on Spring Street, where the teenagers had been gathered since Friday for the annual Youth Convention. The teens walked down the center of Middle Street, through the city’s popular Old Port, then up Pearl Street by city hall and finally to the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception for Mass celebrated by Bishop Robert Deeley.
“We wanted to do the procession, I think, as kind of a public display of our faith for the drivers, the people on the sidewalks, the pedestrians, so they could see us, and recognize us, and see that there are youth in the Church who are active and in love with God,” said Sara Philbrick from Good Shepherd Parish in Saco.
“I think it shows unity. Especially walking in downtown Portland, there are a lot of people watching and working. It really gives the message that the Catholic Church is alive, and youth are really empowered in today’s world,” said Jacob Guillemette from St. Thérèse of Lisieux Parish in Sanford, who carried the cross to lead the procession.
“The cross was really heavy, but it was totally worth it. Just seeing the amount of kids behind me, coming together as one, Catholic Church, processing to the cathedral. It was great,” he said.
The teens also carried a picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a banner displaying the convention’s theme, which was “Believe,” and banners or flags representing their home parishes. The young people participating came from parishes from Aroostook to York County.
As they processed, they prayed and sang hymns, such as “Ave Maria” and “Salve Regina.”
“It was really awesome, because it shows our faith and that we’re not scared to go out in the world and to prove we are Catholics and that we’re not afraid of that, and to show that we love God and that we’re willing to share our faith with others,” said Dominic Lagasse from Notre Dame du Mont Carmel Parish in Madawaska. “It was exciting. We got to sing. We were just showing our happiness to everybody else around us, and we felt God’s presence with us."
“It was cold, but it was really amazing because a lot of people were going by, and they were watching us,” said Danielle Nadeau, from St. John Vianney Parish in Fort Kent. “You could tell they had questions on their faces. It was just amazing to walk with all the youth and show everyone our faith. We were singing, talking about everything. It was really awesome.”
During the Mass at the cathedral, the bishop praised the youth for participating in the procession saying it allowed “more people to get to witness what I have seen when I spend time with you.”
The bishop noted that this is a year in which the Church is especially focusing on young people. Pope Francis, bishops, and dioceses around the world have been preparing for an International Synod of Bishops, to be held in October, which will be devoted to young people in the Catholic Church.
“Pope Francis places much trust in the mission he gives to young people like you. He believes that there is a mission that you are able to carry out in the world. In your time together this weekend, I think you have deepened your appreciation of what believing means and what a difference it makes to the way you live,” the bishop said. “You should not be surprised that Pope Francis places great faith in you. From its beginnings, the Church has been blessed with the presence of young people alive in faith and eager to serve the Lord Jesus.”
During the Mass, the bishop blessed and installed new members of the Catholic Youth Leadership Team (CYLT), as well as a new adult leader. CYLT members help plan diocesan youth events, including the annual convention.
The new CYLT members are Isabelle Castonguay from St. Rose of Lima Parish in Jay, Mary Daniels from the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland, Brendan Fedrizzi from St. Matthew Parish in Limerick, Israel Gombojav from Corpus Christi Parish in Waterville, Isabella Gould from St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Bangor, Jacob Guillemette from St. Thérèse of Lisieux Parish in Sanford, Jenna Roane from All Saints Parish in Brunswick, Christina Roy from St. Michael Parish in Augusta, Matthew Sawiciki from Prince of Peace Parish in Lewiston, and Thomas Smith from St. Agnes Parish in Pittsfield. The new adult leader is Bob Guillemette from St. Thérèse.
“Being a part of a similar leadership team when I was in high school was an important part of developing my appreciation for the Church and for my part in it, even as a young person,” the bishop told them. “The same is true for each of you who will be installed as leaders and all of you who help with the youth activities in your parishes. Together you are learning how to be leaders.”
The annual Catholic Youth Convention is an opportunity for high school-aged teenagers from around the state to gather to celebrate their faith. The convention features dynamics speakers, workshops, Masses, prayer, the sacrament of reconciliation, eucharistic adoration, social time, a dance, and more.
“It was awesome. We had so much fun dancing, and our keynote speaker was awesome. It was really good. I loved it. The food was good. Everything was good,” said Dominic.
This year’s keynote addresses were presented by Michael Patin, an inspirational speaker from Louisiana, who has worked in ministry for more than 30 years and formerly worked as a high school teacher. To read a related story about the convention, click here.