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

Catholic Youth Day Sets More Than 1,300 Hearts ‘Ablaze’
By SOCRATES PALMER Jr.
Chris Sheridan
There was plenty for participants to smile about throughout the fifth annual New York Catholic Youth Day April 29 at St. Joseph’s Seminary, Dunwoodie.

More than 1,300 youths and adult volunteers assembled at St. Joseph’s Seminary, Dunwoodie, for the fifth annual New York Catholic Youth Day (NYCYD) April 29. The crowd, primarily high school students as well as some college students, plus youth and youth ministers, attended workshops, heard testimonials from keynote speakers, and participated in the sacrament of reconciliation and the celebration of the concluding Mass.

The event, sponsored by the archdiocesan Youth Ministry Office, drew participants from 51 parishes across the archdiocese this year.

Cynthia Psencik, associate director of the Youth Ministry Office, told CNY she was pleased with the turnout and she hopes that the day’s theme, inspired by St. Catherine of Siena, resonates in the hearts of participants when they return home. “Today is the feast day of St. Catherine of Siena and she has a famous quote, “If you are what you should be, you would set the whole world ablaze,” Ms. Psencik said.

“We were trying to encourage our young people to not run with the tides but run against the current and…set their own path ablaze, an inspiration of St. Catherine of Siena.”

Ela Milewska is director of youth ministry in the archdiocese.

In a video greeting at the start of the day, Cardinal Dolan apologized for not being able to attend. Even though the cardinal was not able to be present, he said, “I am praying with and for you that this celebration will inspire you to continue to seek our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and to grow every day more in love with him, and on fire ablaze like his disciples.”

Cardinal Dolan implored the youth to keep their hearts ablaze by praying every day and remaining faithful to the sacraments, especially with a good confession and through the Eucharist, which he called “food for our journey.”

The video was played on several large monitors set up throughout the large white tent that covered the green lawn, where most of the day’s activities took place including the concluding Mass celebrated by Auxiliary Bishop Peter Byrne, episcopal vicar of Dutchess, Putnam and Northern Westchester deaneries. Father Vince Druding, parochial vicar of Assumption parish, Peekskill, delivered the homily.

Keynote speaker Paul J. Kim brought his unique style of ministry accompanied by hip hop-inspired beat boxing (sound effects with his voice), along with sharp wit and humor. The Southern California-based Kim used personal testimonies from his experiences as a teenager in which he implored the youth not to be afraid to be themselves.

“You have the power of words and the power of actions. Be the best version of you that you can be. Don’t be a carbon copy of someone else. Remember we are called to be the salt of the earth, we are called to be witnesses. Jesus calls you by name, and remember your life matters every single day, go be the light!” Kim said.

Youth Day served as a family outing for some. Nilda Alejandro and her son, Ariel, 11, parishioners of Our Lady of Mercy in the Bronx, told CNY that events like NYCYD are crucial to the development of Catholic youth and great for parents as well.

“This event is good for everyone,” Mrs. Alejandro said. “As a parent it helps you understand our own children and also the youth that we engage with regularly in our parish. Being here at Dunwoodie is a wonderful experience. It’s a beautiful place. Having the event here is a great idea for most of the kids who live in the inner city. It gives them a change of scenery,” Mrs. Alejandro said.

NYCYD was alive with music, from the “House Band” Catholic Youth Band and even a juggling routine from professional jugglers Apex G and Brad.

Joel Bauza, an 18-year-old senior at St. Raymond High School for Boys in the Bronx, said he will always remember NYCYD fondly because of the thought-provoking topics presented there.

“I came here with my school, there are about 25 of us here today and it’s been a good time so far. I was taken aback hearing Paul Kim’s story on how bullying almost caused a suicide. Then having a random individual step up and befriend a stranger, and it changed the course of someone’s life.

“It makes me feel very fortunate that I have people who care for me, and it also made me think of how serious bullying is and if you don’t have anything nice to say to someone, you shouldn’t say anything at all,” Joel said.

Participants donated more than 1,000 pounds of food to the Catholic Charities’ Feeding Our Neighbors campaign. For more information on the Youth Ministry Office, contact Cynthia Psencik at (914) 968-6200, ext. 8329.

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