‘You’re chosen,’ Cardinal DiNardo tells teens at youth conference

August 14, 2018

At top, Father Preston Quintela processes with the Blessed Sacrament during Adoration at the Archdiocesan Youth Conference at the George R. Brown Convention Center July 21. Photos by Spirit Juice Studios.

HOUSTON — Breakdancing seminarians and dance battles, Astros tributes, moving prayer experiences to honor life changing events like Santa Fe and Harvey, meaningful Liturgy and Holy Mass, and ultimately recognizing the call to holiness as teens “chosen” by God, just as the Virgin Mary was, were just some of the highlights of the 2018 Archdiocesan Youth Conference. 

More than 2,100 teens — from 89 parishes in the Archdiocese, one Catholic high school and one parish from McKinney, Texas — turned out for the annual conference held in downtown Houston on July 20 to 23. Three packed days featured inspiring talks on holiness from Father Preston Quintela of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church in Houston, Sister Josephine Garrett, Joe Melendrez, Jackie Francois-Angel, Brian Greenfield and worship by the Francis Cabildo Band. 

PHOTOS: Scenes from around #AYC2018

Friday night included a special live prayer experience that featured the Holy Family on a posada, or journey to find shelter, encountering families and people from difficult life situations who would join the Holy Family on their posada. During the session, actors depicting the Holy Family sought refuge from actors portraying families who experienced Harvey’s devastation, the Santa Fe High School shooting, new migrants who left everything to find safety in the U.S., a family with domestic issues, and eventually Jesus Christ himself who offered words of encouragement.

Special this year was a video message from Houston Astros pitcher and MLB All-Star Lance McCullers Jr. who encouraged the youth to “remember to keep faith and family close and to develop the most important things.” 

In his homily during the closing Mass on Sunday, July 23, Daniel Cardinal DiNardo called the youth to holiness.

He echoed Pope Francis from the pontiff’s new apostolic exhortation ‘Gaudete et exsultate’ (Glad and Rejoice): “My modest goal in this new document is to re-propose the call to holiness in a practical way for our time with all its risks, challenges, and opportunities, for the Lord has chosen each one of us.”

The pope “uses the model of the Virgin Mary in order to speak to us about this call to holiness and how you let that holiness fill days, nights and everything else,” Cardinal DiNardo said. “Chosen, chosen, chosen. That’s who we are, and that’s what we want to become.”

He continued: “There’s also the gesture of the Liturgy and there’s the intensity of prayer, of Adoration. And from there, there’s the outreach of giving of yourself. Yes, that’s all the Gospel, and that’s what we’re about. The Church, like a neon light, has two words for us: Baptism, chosen. You’re chosen. God has made you chosen.”

Cardinal DiNardo also shared his gratitude to the youth: “You’re all at incredibly different stages of coming to know Jesus. I can assure you He loves you. He has chosen you. You have reflected this weekend on that. You have prayed about that. Perhaps for some of you this has been a discovery weekend. Perhaps for others it’s been a painful one. In all of these cases, though, Jesus has chosen us and wants us to go forward, and isn’t it brilliant that on our final day, our final time together, the Church always invites one thing: the Eucharist. That’s what the Church does. That’s what we do best. There may be others that do other things OK, but what we do best is the Eucharist, because it’s not us — it’s the Lord Jesus coming into our midst, feeding us with His word, then with His Body and Blood.”

He also encouraged the youth to share what they have learned that weekend with their peers and families.
“Let the word of God seep into you,” he said. “Let this weekend seep into you.”

At the end of the conference, Cardinal DiNardo introduced Tim Colbert as the new director of the Office of Adolescent Catechesis and Evangelization.