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

Pallottine Conference Strengthens Teens’ Relationship With God
By DAN PIETRAFESA
ASHLEY ZACCARDO PHOTOS
Teens dance at a performance by Joe Melendrez of Joe Melendrez Ministries in California during the Pallottine Teenage Federation Conference at Honor’s Haven Resort & Spa in Ellenville Dec. 2.

The Pallottine Teenage Federation Conference was a rewarding and spiritually uplifting one for John McKiernan.

The president of the Pallottine Teenage Federation was among the 200 youth participants at the 56th annual conference with the theme, “Every Day Is Brand New,” at Honor’s Haven Resort & Spa in Ellenville Dec. 1-3.

“It has strengthened my relationship with God, and I’m eternally grateful I had this opportunity,’’ the 18-year-old parishioner of St. Catharine of Alexandria in Blauvelt told CNY.

The Tappan Zee High School senior, who attended the conference for the fourth time, is joined on the 2017-2018 youth leadership board by vice president Emma Cranston, St. Christopher, Staten Island; secretary Victoria Bruno, Sacred Heart, Staten Island; and program chairperson Alexa Verderame, St. Francis of Assisi, West Nyack.

“We hope to have a positive influence and spread God’s image,” McKiernan said. “We have an intelligent team, and I’m proud to be serving with them.”

The conference was sponsored by the Sisters of the Catholic Apostolate, also known as the Pallottines, and was filled with spiritual activities. Father John Bonnici, pastor of St. Columba in Chester, was a speaker and celebrated Mass Friday evening.

On Saturday morning, there were confessions, Eucharistic adoration and Benediction, and Joe Melendrez of Joe Melendrez Ministries in California delivered a keynote speech.

Melendrez, a Catholic performer and high school religion teacher in Los Angeles, is known as a speaker, master of ceremonies, musical performer and retreat leader.

“I thought Joe Melendrez was great in teaching us how to relate our faith to today’s society,” Miss Cranston said.

“He was incredible. He encouraged all of the youths to stand up and dance,” McKiernan said. “His message to stay true to yourself and your faith was so uplifting.”

Father Michael Martine, pastor of Holy Rosary on Staten Island and spiritual moderator of the federation, celebrated Saturday night’s Mass. An Advent wreath was lighted before Mass.

“It’s an important event we have every year. It helps bring teens closer to Christ and Christ closer to teens,” Father Martine said. “We want to make them aware of the presence of Christ in their lives. They need to have a relationship with Him and the Church to guide them. They really need Jesus as part of their lives and need a relationship with Him.

“I feel the faith and Holy Spirit there in the hearts of the youths. I can see their desire for closeness with Christ.”

Following Mass, the youth ministry awards were presented to Hope Andrews and Apryl De Mild of St. Stanislaus parish in Pleasant Valley, Michael Lucyk of Immaculate Conception in Woodbourne, Helen Smith of St. Catharine of Alexandria in Blauvelt and Noelle Molly of St. Thomas of Canterbury and St. Joseph in Cornwall-on-Hudson.

“They put on an amazing weekend, and it’s run by the youth. The adults oversee so that it runs smoothly. The youth plan it and see it come to fruition at the conference,” said Gayle Murphy, PTAF coordinator on Staten Island who has been involved for more than 30 years as a participant and now as coordinator.

“I hope they go back to their parish energized again and continue working in their church to be productive Christian leaders.”

The youth leaders soon will begin preparations for the 2018 conference with hopes of building on the memories of this year’s event.

“The weekend was really a fun time. It was great to have the three days to become more connected to God and increase my faith,’’ said Miss Cranston, a 16-year-old junior at St. Joseph by-the-Sea High School in Staten Island attending her fifth PTAF conference.

“I learned ways to keep my faith strong in my everyday life.”

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