Blessed and Broken was the theme for this year’s Catholic Youth Festival held at the Shrine of St.Therese in Pueblo. The Youth Fest was held on the weekend of February 22-23. The keynote presenter for both the Middle School and High School youth was Pueblo’s own Father Chris Gama. As a youth, Father Gama attended Sunset Park Elementary School and graduated from South High School in 1998. In high school, he was very active in athletics and played on the state championship baseball team. His home parish was the Shrine of St. Therese. At the college level, Father Gama studied engineering at Colorado State University-Pueblo and Ft. Collins.
He was ordained May 30, 2013, and is Superior at the St. Anthony of Padua Friary for the order of Franciscan Capuchins. He has also served as the Chaplain at Ft. Carson in Colorado Springs. St. Francis of Assisi was the founder of the Franciscans. They live their lives founded on the three separate vows they take of poverty, chastity, and obedience. They strive to be authentic witnesses of Christ by being approachable and available to the people of God.
The Catholic Youth Festival has a history in the Pueblo area Catholic Community that goes back decades. The Pastoral Network Committee is composed of various youth ministers, Directors and Coordinators of Religious Education, catechists, and clergy from the Pueblo Deanery. Those serving on the committee are grateful for the opportunity to be able to continue this ministry geared toward the youth in our parish communities. Participating parishes not only come from the Pueblo Deanery but also from the La Junta and Alamosa Deaneries. Over three hundred youth attended the event representing 20 different parishes
The Catholic Youth Festival could not happen without the generous grant received from the Diocese of Pueblo Catholic Foundation. In addition to the grant, the Knights of Columbus #12720 of the Shrine of St. Therese graciously cooked and served the food for the youth and the volunteers who attended the festival.
Father Gama carried a powerful message to the youth regarding the importance of developing a relationship with Christ and that this is a lifelong endeavor. As he spoke to the youth regarding his faith journey, he shared that he came from a broken home and how he tried to deal with the pain that comes from that type of experience. That experience challenged him to question ‘what is this life about?’ He sought unconditional love and he kept hitting dead ends in his searching. He eventually “poured out his heart to the Lord asking for guidance, help, strength, and purpose.” He found the unconditional love he had been searching for in choosing to follow Christ.
The youth could relate to his experiences of growing up here in Pueblo – as a student, an athlete, as a kid who faced similar struggles. It was important for them to see how God can work in one’s life but that we must all ask God for the guidance and strength to do so. Not everyone is called to become a priest or a religious. However, he reminded those in attendance that by our baptism we are all called in some way to go out into the world and make a positive difference by following the Gospel.
He challenged those in attendance by asking themselves questions such as: “What does being a Christian mean to you?” “How do we begin a Christian life? Not only did Fr. Gama engage the youth by asking faith-related questions but he also fielded questions from the audience.
Bishop Stephen Berg was in attendance for both the middle school and high school events. He encouraged the youth to grow in their faith to be the intentional disciples we are all called to be. Several other priests and deacons were present to support the youth from their parishes. Many of the priests were also available on Sunday afternoon offering the youth the opportunity to participate in the Sacrament of Reconciliation – many of which took advantage of the opportunity.
The weekend closed with Mass presided by Bishop Stephen Berg at the Shrine of St. Therese.
From his experience over the weekend Fr. Gama posted the following on his Facebook page: ”The next generation of Christians is who will lead the Church in the future. It was an honor and joy to preach Christ to them in my hometown. I often feel unworthy to come home and preach. The line from John's gospel rings true, "And Nathanael said, can anything good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip said, Come and see." Can anything good come out of Pueblo? I told the next generation...Come and see! #dioceseofpueblo #catholicyouth #preachthegospelatalltimes #friarswagg #homeoftheheroes #pueblo #shrineofsttherese #faith #hope #love @ Shrine of St Therese Pueblo Youth.”
We are eagerly planning 2021 events to be more interactive and Christ-filled. Watch for more information to come.
Contributor: Linda Davis working for the Catholic Church since 1986. Currently as Director of Youth, Young Adult and Family Ministry at Holy Family Parish in the city of Pueblo.