Friday, November 10, 2017
Jonathan Martinez - Florida Catholic
MIAMI GARDENS | Music, fellowship, youthful energy and enthusiasm marked the second annual Mercy Night, which drew about 700 youths from around the archdiocese to share their faith at St. Thomas University Nov. 4.
"We offered the first Mercy Night last year during the Holy Father’s Year of Mercy and we decided because it was so successful to do a second one, and the response has been extraordinary," said Stephen Colella, director of the archdiocese’s Secretariat of Parish Life.
The evening began with several priests hearing confessions, followed by prayer, games, inspiring talks and performances by the Christian music band EPIC and by Christian hip-hop artist Communion. The night even included a visit by Archbishop Thomas Wenski.
"Tonight, my main goal is to make sure that they walk out excited about their faith and ready for action,” said keynote speaker Father Tony Ricard, pastor of St. Gabriel the Archangel and campus minister/theology teacher at St. Augustine High School in the Archdiocese of New Orleans. "There's nothing like the energy and fire that the young folk can give us when they come together, and if you can get that spark going, they can take it and spread it through their churches."
Mercy Night is a youth rally, meant to bring young people from different parishes and schools together for one night, to enjoy music, prayers, talks, and adoration. The event is a response to the archdiocesan synod, which highlighted the need for more missionary outreach to youths and young adults. Now, Mercy Night is considered the largest Catholic youth gathering in South Florida. It is aimed at teens in middle school and high school.
"I hope that what they get out of coming to Mercy Night is, first the sense that they're not alone, and second, that they are really led to a close relationship with Jesus,” said Rosemarie Banich, director of the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry.
Adrian Sanchez, an eighth-grade student at Epiphany School in Miami, said he attended Mercy Night for the second year because after attending last year he felt “like God was calling me.”
"I think that God is calling me to just be a better person and to look to him, and not worry about all the negative, all the pointless things in life and instead look at the one thing that can actually give you something,” said Adrian. “There's all kind of stuff that we go through and there is no need for so much of it. Once you talk to him (Jesus) you can understand that there is a point and that he is everything and he is the center. I think that is going to make me a better person and a better Catholic.”
Father Bryan Garcia, parochial vicar at St. Andrew Church in Coral Springs, attended with 30 teens from the parish. He said it’s important for youths to experience a night of worship and fun, and share the faith with others their age. “Hopefully, what they get from this is an encounter with the Lord and also that their faith is something that is relevant and should be shared with their parish.”
“In today's world, all these young people are looking for a role model,” said Father Elvis Gonzalez, archdiocesan vocations director, who also attended Mercy Night. “I pray that they realize that there is no greater role model than Jesus who can show them the right path in life."