The Fourth Annual Youth Advent Reconciliation Service was held on Sunday, December 1st at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart. Bishop Stephen Berg presided at the liturgy and was accompanied by nine priests to hear confessions.
This service was brought about by the efforts of the Pastoral Network Committee which is a committee made up of Directors of Religious Education, Coordinators of Religious Education, catechists and clergy within the city of Pueblo. This group of people formed together to begin collaborating in youth ministry events. Although much of the planning and collaboration occurs within the Pueblo Deanery invitations are extended to our colleagues and youth in surrounding deaneries. Because parish resources are becoming stretched financially and with staff and volunteers. As a group, we realized the importance of pulling our resources together to take advantage of everyone’s gifts, talents and time in order to evangelize the youth in the Diocese of Pueblo.
This group has not only organized the recent Advent Reconciliation Service but is also involved in planning trips to the National Catholic Youth Conference (NCYC), Steubenville of the Rockies, Just5Days Mission trips for middle school youth, Vacation Bible School, and our annual Catholic Youth Festival.
The Youth Advent Reconciliation service has been a powerful catechizing and evangelization tool for those in the planning of the event and for the youth attending. This event continues to be well attended each year. Both middle school and high school youth from the Pueblo community are invited to attend the service and participate in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It is heartening to see the Cathedral full of young people represented by their parishes in Pueblo and for them to experience the support they receive from one another, their parish priests and Bishop Berg.
Each year the committee focuses on an Advent theme. This year's theme was “Awaiting the Light.” The theme centered around the Light of Christ and the hopeful waiting experienced in Advent. A guide on how to participate in the Sacrament of Reconciliation was given to each person. Not only was this a guide for attendees to utilize at the service but the guide also contained Examination of Conscience questions from four areas in the lives of teens: “Family and Home, School, God, and Myself,” which can be used anytime. Each category had approximately six questions for them to pray and ponder over prior to going to Confession. During the liturgy, a parish teen went to the ambo and read aloud the questions from each of the categories. Four large candles were placed around the baptismal font at the Cathedral and votive candles were placed around the font as well. As each category was named and the questions read aloud one of the four large candles was lit by Father Carl Wertin.
After a blessing from Bishop Berg, the teens were invited to go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. After they made their confession, they were invited to go to the baptismal font and light a votive candle. From there they returned to the pews to pray and reflect on the mercy of God working in their lives.
An added grace for the teens was to see so many of their peers, from other parishes, throughout the city gathered under one roof and together experience the gift of the Sacrament.
The liturgy itself was put together by Father Michael Chrisman, Director of Liturgy for the Diocese of Pueblo and Deborah Rendon, Director of Music and Liturgy for the Cathedral and Diocesan Music Director. Music was also provided by Deb Rendon and Marcos Leblanc who is the Music Ministry Director for Saint Joseph Catholic Church, Pueblo.
No matter the event it is truly a blessing to see, experience and share in the giftedness of each other; to recognize the face of God in one another and to deepen and grow in our Catholic faith. Each of us, no matter our background, is a child of God and that is certainly worth celebrating this Advent season.
Contributor: John Chavez received his certification in Youth Ministry from the Center for Ministry Development. He has been involved in youth ministry for 20+ years. John is currently in Deacon Formation and as part of that process is involved in Prison Ministry. He is deeply committed and is extremely blessed to be involved in these two very worthwhile ministries.