When: June 3-4
Where: Phoenix Convention Center – North, 100 N. Third St.
For ages 13 and older
When the Holy Spirit poured forth His spirit on the first Pentecost, the faithful gathered came from a variety of backgrounds with different languages, yet they were able to understand each other.
It’s fitting then, that the diocese’s third annual Catholic Youth Congreso, a truly bilingual congress for the youth of the diocese, is being held the weekend of Pentecost this year, June 3-4 at the Phoenix Convention Center.
“If we think about the story of Pentecost, everyone was there speaking in their own tongue, and the Holy Spirit still had the power to bring everyone together and we hope that that’s the same case for CYC,” said Stephanie Salinas, facilitator of catechesis at St. John Vianney Parish in Goodyear and a member of the congreso’s planning committee.
The bilingual nature of the Catholic Youth Congreso, formerly the “Youth Catholic Congreso,” is found in its name, which is a combination of English and Spanish. There will be talks in English and Spanish, and some in “Spanglish” — a combination of both, Salinas said. Breakout sessions will also be offered in both languages to give participants options.
The name was changed this year to strengthen the Catholic identity of the event, said Salinas’ husband Basilio, director of youth ministry at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Glendale and also a member of the planning committee.
“When you put Catholic in front of something it automatically identifies it as who we are and what we do … and that the Catholic youth will be present,” he said.
The theme for this year’s Congreso is “Revival” and is taken from Acts 2:1-4. Auxiliary Bishop Eduardo A. Nevares will celebrate the 8:30 a.m. Mass for the Feast of Pentecost Sunday, June 4. Fr. John Parks, the diocese’s Vicar for Evangelization, will deliver two of the keynote talks and facilitate a vocations panel that will feature priests, religious and married couples.
“The youth are not the future of the Church, they are the Church, right now,” said Fr. Parks. “Pope Francis says the best way to evangelize a young person is through another young person, so that’s what it’s about — empowering these young people. I saw the passion and energy last year to go be a witness of [Jesus Christ] where they work, where they go to school, where they shop and where they eat fast food.”
Although the event is bilingual and will heavily feature Hispanic culture, the Congreso is not limited to Hispanic youth.
“You don’t have to be Hispanic to attend,” said Carmen Portela, director of the diocese’s Office of Hispanic Parish Leadership Support, which is sponsoring the Congreso. “The majority are Hispanic because of demographics, that’s the reality, but you don’t need to be Hispanic to attend. Last time we had Filipinos, we had African-Americans, they were enjoying the Congreso as well.”
There will be programs for young adults, too. Although many young adults work or volunteer in youth ministry, Stephanie said there will be some workshops geared toward those not in ministry.
“We never assume that a participant at the Congreso is involved in ministry,” Stephanie said. “Our hope is we’re reaching young adults who just want to have a deeper relationship with God, whether they’re serving and active in a parish or not. … It’s how to deepen your spiritual life as a young adult; how to make proper decisions through discernment as a young adult, entering into the grown-up world, dating with the purpose of marriage, etc.”
The Congreso will also feature speakers addressing the process of the V Encuentro, which is calling every parish in the diocese to discern how to engage millennials in the Church, while keeping in mind that the majority of millennials in the diocese are Hispanic.
“They tie very closely. It’s providential because it gives you the platform to submerge them in the V Encuentro as well,” said Portela.
“I hope they’ll find a sense of belonging, that they are a part of something bigger,” Portela said about those who are participating. “They have a place in their parishes and their Church, and they have a mission. They have been called again and again and they just need to fine tune to be able to hear that, like all of us.”