Fr. Alejandro López, president of La Red Nacional Católica de Pastoral Juvenil Hispana, was one of the keynote speakers for the Congreso and homilist for the Sunday Mass. He is standing next to the V Encuentro cross that was blessed by Pope Francis during his apostolic visit to the United States in 2015. (Photo courtesy of Gilberto Zazueta)

Fr. Alejandro López, a visiting priest from Boston, had a very simple yet poignant question for youth and young adults attending the Sunday Mass at this year’s Catholic Youth Congreso: “Why aren’t you going out there and sharing what the Holy Spirit has done for you?”

Fr. López, president of La Red National Catholic Network de Pastoral Juvenil Hispano, was one of the keynote speakers for the Congreso — with the theme “Revival,” and preached the homily at the Mass, celebrated on the Feast of Pentecost.

Fr. López told The Catholic Sun that the youth attending the Congreso, held June 3-4 at the Phoenix Convention Center – North, was a sign of hope, especially as the process of the V Encuentro is focusing on how to reach that population.

“This is a kind of mini-Encuentro,” he said, adding that we need to figure out, “as missionary disciples, how my experience can be shared with those who are not here, and that’s the same message as V Encuentro.”

En español: Jóvenes fueron desafiados a ser discípulos misioneros en el tercer Catholic Youth Congreso


Youth and young adult members of the hospitality team welcome participants to the Catholic Youth Congreso June 3-4. (Photo courtesy of Gilberto Zazueta)

He said that youth ministry can be adult-centric with adults leading rather than advising and allowing youth to take on the leadership.

“This V Encuentro allows us to seek new leaders in this generation,” Fr. López said. “Initiative needs to be taken by youth, and the advisers — adults — are to help accompany them.”

Basilio Salina, director of youth ministry at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Glendale and also a member of the COngreso’s planning committee, addresses the youth. (Photo courtesy of Gilberto Zazueta)

Lilibeth Garcia, a 17-year-old from St. Catherine of Siena Parish, takes that call seriously. She said she tries to be a witness to the Church through her example to her friends in school and not be afraid to share her faith.

“I learned to take risks because God likes when we take risks for love of others,” Garcia said. “I have a lot of friends who don’t believe in God, where they ask questions.”

Pablo Flores, a 14-year-old parishioner at Our Lady of Fatima Mission, said it’s important to turn to invite people to experience worshipping God.

“God will always be there,” he said.

Amy Ojeda, a 13-year-old from St. Mark Parish, meanwhile said she learned to be patient with God and to realize that just because something isn’t going according to her plans doesn’t mean He’s not listening.

Stephanie Salinas, facilitator of catechesis at St. John Vianney Parish in Goodyear, was one of the speakers at the Congreso. She and her husband Basilio spoke about the vocation of marriage. (Photo courtesy of Gilberto Zazueta)

“Even if your life goes wrong, be patient with Him and you’ll find steadiness in your life,” Ojeda said. “Always stay with Him, no matter how bad everything can go.”

Carmen Portela, director of the diocesan Office of Hispanic Parish Leadership Support, which sponsors the Congreso, said the attendance was almost to capacity and was grateful to see the Holy Spirit moving through the participants.

“He has a mission for everyone, He’s calling, especially the youth and young adults,” Portela said. “The Holy Spirit is calling them to be disciples and a call to evangelize.”

Next year’s Congreso is scheduled for June 16-17 at the Phoenix Convention Center – North.