ROMERO: Hope for our young Church

February 28, 2023

(Photo by Adan Camarillo)

Unsurprisingly, nightclubs and bars are full of young adults on a Saturday night. It is unusual to think that just a few miles from Downtown and Midtown Houston, at late hours, there would be nearly 700 young adults praising our Lord in Eucharistic Adoration.

These young adults had the choice to go out for a fun night dancing or singing praise and worship with fellow Catholics in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, and they chose to be at church Jan. 21. What a sign of hope for our Church!

The Vigilia Pastoral is an annual Eucharistic vigil hosted by the Office of Young Adult and Campus Ministry. The event is planned by leaders from 19 Hispanic young adult groups from around the Archdiocese. Preparations for the Vigilia Pastoral began last September, and even then, I could see the excitement of the young adult leaders who were ready to get their groups involved, especially after returning the event to its normal schedule of running from 5:30 p.m. on Saturday through 6 a.m. on Sunday.

After seeing all the work that went into this event, it was emotional, healing and joy-filled to see all 19 young adult groups come together to praise our Lord all night long. It is mind-blowing that nothing could stop these young adults from getting to the Charismatic Center.

Marco Ibarra, coordinator for the Agua Viva Group based at the Charismatic Center, shared an inspiring story of his experience at Vigilia. He came to Houston in May of 2019 and didn’t care to go to church. His life became work, and he got wrapped in bad habits. As he says, “I got lost in the everyday world that is said to be happiness, but it isn’t.”

In October 2019, he received bad news and just needed to go to church. He asked his cousin to take him to church, and that is when, after a long time, he went to Adoration at Queen of Peace Church. His cousin invited him to the Vigilia Pastoral, but he was consumed with work and gave any excuse he could.

Although Ibarra was physically drained, something told him to go, and he asked for a ride to the Catholic Charismatic Center that, to his surprise, was only 11 minutes away from his house. He said he instantly felt welcomed when he arrived. He said his life changed that night. He encountered our Lord, truly present in the Eucharist. His cousin invited him, but he knew that it was God who was inviting him. It was God who wanted him to return.

During the homily, Father Jorge Alvarado encouraged the young adults to go out and make a change: “With all of you present here, you can change the world by spreading the joy of Christ’s love to others!”

Of the many beautiful moments at the Vigilia Pastoral, the most moving moment was during the repositioning of the Blessed Sacrament.

The young people were invited to come down from their seats to the front of the altar to be blessed. We all experienced the beauty of community at the foot of the altar with the Lord. Personally, witnessing the young people singing with tears of joy in their eyes and their hands raised gave me the chills. It was a moment filled with the Holy Spirit, which led them to an intimacy with the Lord and allowed them to live the Eucharist more intensely. For a moment, the life of each young adult stopped before the Lord, offering Him their worries and anxieties and delivering them with that peace that only He can give us.

Our mission is to care for young adults and create a home for them in the Church. As members of the Body of Christ, we are to inspire, support and invite all these young people to encounter the real presence of Christ in their lives.

With the experience of what was lived in the Vigilia Pastoral, there is hope for our Church, and I am sure that we are doing our part to spread and restore that knowledge and love of the Eucharist to the young people who are thirsting for God. 

Thalía Romero is an associate with the Office of Young Adult and Campus Ministry.