First Place Award for General Excellence, Catholic Press Association, 2013-2016

Catholic Conference Strengthens, ‘Restores’ Faith of Young Adults
By DAN PIETRAFESA
Chris Sheridan
Presenter Christy Vaissade speaks during her workshop at the third annual Restore: Origin—A Catholic Conference for Young Adults at Mount St. Mary College in Newburgh April 21. Some 125 young adults participated in the daylong event, which included speakers, workshops, an opportunity for the sacrament of reconciliation and a Mass celebrated by Cardinal Dolan.

The Vegas turned a Catholic retreat for young adults into a family outing.

Xavier and Elizabeth Vega attended Restore: Origin – A Catholic Conference for Young Adults at Mount St Mary College in Newburgh with 14-month-old daughter Gabriella April 21.

The archdiocese’s Young Adult Outreach Office sponsored the event that had more than 125 participants.

“This year we wanted to come up here and grow spiritually,” said Xavier Vega, a 34-year-old parishioner of Holy Name of Jesus in Valhalla with his family. “We haven’t been to a retreat in a while. So, we thought it would be good to come up here to strengthen our faith a little bit more.”

The Vegas attended the first Restore conference in 2016 and missed last year’s after Gabriella’s birth. They said it’s important for them to raise Gabriella in the Catholic faith by attending Mass each week, being involved with their parish and participating in Catholic retreats to strengthen their faith.

“Just doing this as a family is great. They say from love comes love. She’s God’s creation here,” said Elizabeth, 39. “We pray before every meal and she says ‘Amen.’ We take her to Mass every Sunday, and all the parishioners at our parish know her and are entertained by her. She’s very comfortable in church and we try to embed the faith in her with family prayers.”

Luigi Manente, a regional coordinator for Young Adult Outreach in the Hudson Valley, organized the event with the theme based on John 8:14: “For I know where I have come from and where I am going.”

Morning talks were given by Father James Sheridan, parochial vicar at St. Columba in Hopewell Junction, and Bill Donaghy of the Theology of the Body Institute.

“Father James’ talk was who is God to us and how that impacts us,” Manente said. “The second talk with Bill Donaghy was based on who am I. Why am I privileged to be created in the image and likeness of God.

“We know God and who we are, so what do we do now. It’s not what we do that defines who we are. It’s who we are that defines what we do.”

Afternoon workshops and an opportunity to receive the sacrament of confession preceded Mass celebrated by Cardinal Dolan, who opened his homily with two restoration stories.

The first came from a letter he received after Easter from a man in Texas, who returned to the faith after 25 years by attending Palm Sunday Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Feeling moved at Mass, he was back at the Cathedral each day during his stay in New York and went to confession on Good Friday. He received Holy Communion for the first time in 25 years on Easter Sunday

“I just want you to know I feel restored. I sense now I am where God wants me to be,” the man said in the letter to Cardinal Dolan.

Cardinal Dolan followed by sharing his conversations with men who were working on the restoration of St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

“We are God’s work of art,” the cardinal said. “God see us when he looks at us, as the way he created us, as the way he intended us to be from the beginning. He also sees what has happened since then. He sees some crying, some loss of luster, some wrinkles, some cracks, some flaws in his work of art. Sometimes it might get so bad we cannot recognize the work of art God intends us to be but God always does. He sees us as he created us.

“God is never done with us. There is always going to be some flaw or some imperfection to require a restoring touch, but boy can that ever be encouraging to know God never gives up on us, and He’s always ready to restore, revive and come through again.”

Brian Pompa, a parishioner of St. Columba, was thankful for Manente’s persistent encouragement to attend the conference. The 18-year-old is planning to begin Le Moyne College in Syracuse in the fall.

“I got to hear great talks about keeping your faith, and I had my confession heard by Cardinal Dolan. So, it really helps me for the future to keep my faith in college and not lose it, and keep Catholic influences around me,” he said.

Theresa Mark, 18, learned about the conference when she was asked to prepare a piece of artwork for one of the talks. The parishioner of St. Kateri Tekakwitha in LaGrangeville was preparing to attend the dinner and participate with Catholic Underground North, which closed out the evening. Catholic Underground North welcomes people of all ages to encounter Jesus in adoration, fellowship and in the Catholic arts. It meets on the third Saturday of each month at Mount St. Mary College in Newburgh.

“I wanted to take a break and spend some time with my spiritual life. An all-day event would be good for that,” she said. “My hopes were for a day of reflection and a day to meditate on the theme of the conference of where we are and where we are going. That was really accomplished.”

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