LAYTON — Catholic youth gathered at Saint Rose of Lima Parish to celebrate the retreat "Youth, do not be afraid (Jóven, no tengas miedo)".
Between talks, music, dances, prayers, and presentations, dozens of young Catholics welcomed God in their lives as a symbol of their faith and to provide some of the love that they are missing because of different circumstances.
The presenters included two from outside the diocese: María Ibarra Domínguez of Los Angeles, who has dedicated more than 20 years to evangelizing youth; and Father José Carlos Garcia from Italy. Other presenters were Father Marco Tulio, parochial vicar of Saint Mary of the Assumption Parish in Park City; Father Fidel Barrera, associate pastor of Christ the King Parish in Cedar City, Diocese of Salt Lake City seminarians Jorge Roldán and Alejandro Camberos; and Deacon Ricardo Arias, secretary of the diocesan vocations office.
"It’s important to encourage our youth; they have all the creativity. Evangelization of the youth invigorates our church often," Fr. Garcia said.
"The youth either have their encounter with Christ or not; we have to teach them that Christ is alive. We have to love them, to work for them," said Fr. Barrera.
The retreat was organized by the diocesan Charismatic group to help close the distance they perceive exists between the Church and youth.
"We decided to organize this retreat to form them [youth] in our church," said Javier Morales, a Saint Therese of the Child Jesus parishioner and member of the Charismatic group. "It’s important because they have a lack of knowledge of the Catholic Church and that pushes them away."
At the retreat, Ibarra Domínguez talked about her life experiences. With a father who used drugs and alcohol and abused her mother, Ibarra grew up quickly while trying to figure out how to survive.
"I knew how that was, I lived in a dysfunctional family," Ibarra said. "I know what it is to try to pretend that everything is fine. There were moments that I wanted to scream and tell somebody, ‘This is not true,’ but I couldn’t. I just put a shield in front of me. I didn’t have a choice. Why did I have to grow up so fast? … Why did I had to see the things that I saw? Why did I have to see how my dad lost control? I was choking and nobody could help me, and that’s when Jesus came in my life and raised me."
Ibarra told the participants that she firmly believes that only God is capable of doing what he did for her family.
"You can restore and repair the damage that has been done today; you can get up and go out and make a difference, that is what Jesus did with me," said Ibarra. "No one could have ever done for my family what Jesus did. Jesus saved my dad. He raised a dead man, a drug addict. He raised a mother who was sick, full of anger. He raised four kids. He helped a kid who, with the anger that he had, tried to kill his own dad. He lifted an entire family that was dead. Jesus can lift you up today."
After Ibarra’s talk, the participants were invited to the front of the room. Many started crying and asking God for help, for his guidance, for his love. The priests, deacons, charismatics and seminarians comforted them and blessed them.
"Today is your opportunity," Ibarra said. "I always pray for his help and he responds. He wants to help you. He wants to let you know that change can happen and that he loves you."
The youth "are the reason a diocese is live," Mr. Roldán said. "Pope John Paul II said that when you are talking about the youth you are not talking about the future, you are talking about the present. They will be witnesses of a living church."
The seminarian also said that during the retreat, "the youth’s energy made the church feel more alive."
"God is alive. He loves you. He is always here for you," said Ibarra.