By Clayton Baumgartner

Pope Francis invited Catholic churches around the world to renew and strengthen their celebration of the youth and young people on November 22, 2020. This took place in a Homily where the Holy Father said that we as a Church have a call to connect younger generations with “the Mystery of Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of Man” (Homily of His Holiness). He has thus instituted the Annual Global Celebration of Young People.

But, who are the young people in our Church? Is it an age group? A whole generational group? In Christus Vivit, Pope Francis observes that “the worlds of today’s ‘youth’ are so many that in some countries one tends to speak of ‘young people’ in the plural” (CV 68). We share this outlook in the United States. The Juventud, or young people, include those in their adolescent years (12 to 18), young adult years (18 to 39). This is obviously a vast age range not represented homogeneously, but rather “composed of distinct groups, each with its own life experience” (CV 68).

This celebration is not meant to be an arbitrary get together, but a “significant milestone within a given year of activities and accompaniment of a Church with young people” (USCCB). That is why we proudly announce the Global Celebration of Young People in our very own Diocese of Phoenix! It will be held at the Francis Center of Renewal on Saturday, November 19th from 11am to 6:30pm!

We live in a fast world, a world of haste. Our young people are engulfed in this world, but there are ways to navigate it. Pope Francis says that “a healthy haste drives us always upwards and towards others. Yet there is also an unhealthy haste, which can drive us to live superficially and to take everything lightly” (Homily of His Holiness). Pope Francis encourages the young people to invest in their faith and in themselves. We must take time to pause and recollect, to socialize with each other and galvanize our relationship with God. The Celebration of Young People at Francis Renewal Center offers such an opportunity to pause and recollect.

This celebration has a great lineup and speakers throughout the day retreat! Margarita Villarreal is a young Activated Disciple in the making! She holds a Masters in Leadership for Sustainability, is a huge fan of the Bible in a Year with Fr Mike Schmitz featuring trail guide, Jeff Cavins and loves watching Pints with Aquinas & Ascension Presents on YouTube. She’s an active young adult in the community here across the valley. Amanda Cerdenas is a coordinator of youth ministry in Prescott and has been involved with young people for several years. She has spearheaded many events for the ministry and has rejuvenated the program. Beyond that, she has brought many parish communities together through multi parish retreats and trips across the southwest.

Kainoa Spenser is a determined young man who is on a mission to live beyond his circumstances. In May 2017 his life changed from a normal flight home to a test of survival. Having breathed in and contracted Strep throat he quickly became ill due to the disease mutating into Necrotizing Fasciitis, a flesh-eating bacterium. After 1 month in a medically induced coma and 4 months in 4 different hospitals, Kainoa was released to find the world as he knew it and the future he dreamt of was now very different.  His circumstances left him with 2 choices: To fight or flight. He was not going to let this detract from his chances of achieving his dreams, rather he has been able to turn it into good for the community. Having graduated from Arizona State, in 2021, he helped serve the people of Arizona through his internship at the office of Governor Ducey. In December 2018, he worked together with a local nonprofit to climb one of the seven summits in the world. He did not choose to climb just any mountain, he set his sights on Mount Kosciusko, Australia’s highest peak! Now working in the Governor’s office of youth, Faith and Family, Kainoa is making an impact at an institutional level, he is working to uplift the lives of all Arizonans. Faith and determination never left his side, he knew things to God’s grace that he is here today and he’s working every day to get back to the community that gave so much to him. Kainoa is here to help people living with disabilities by helping them find belief in themselves once again.

These are just a few of the speakers that will be present at the celebration. We will also have confession available, praise and worship with the band lead by the Diocese of Phoenix’s own Miguel Núñez. There will also be a guide for the labyrinth prayer, and for meditation in the chapel. We will close the day with Mass with the OLA community and Adoration!

Lastly, the event will have a tabling sector full of ministries represented across the Diocese. Here young people can learn about the many ways to be of service to others, to invest in themselves and their neighbors. These tables include Young Franciscans, Young Catholic Professionals, Vatican Observatory, Catholic Charities, St. Vincent de Paul, Walking with Moms in Need, Casa Faith In Action Ministries, and the Books and Blessings Bookstore.

Registration for this event is available online! Spread the word, tell you the young people in your life about it! Tell your local parish coordinator of youth ministry or even the young adult leader! The deadline is November 14th and the cost is ONLY $20.

Get all the information about the order of the day.

With all that said, I close with a prayer from Pope Francis:

Dear young people, it is my dream that at World Youth Day you will be able to experience anew the joy of encountering God and our brothers and sisters. After a long period of social distancing and isolation, we will all rediscover in Lisbon – with God’s help – the joy of a fraternal embrace between peoples and generations, an embrace of reconciliation and peace, an embrace of new missionary fraternity! Amen.

For those you cannot join us, please pray for the success of the event with Pope Francis’ Prayer for Young People:

A Prayer for Youth and Young Adults
Jesus Christ, King of the Universe,
to you we turn in humble prayer.
Look with favor upon all young people,
bearers of hope for the Church and the world.
Jesus Christ, companion
of youth and young adults,
bless the paths of discovery and discernment,
through times of joy and experiences of hardship,
with the constant love and support of your Church.
Jesus Christ, alive in the hearts
of all your people,
grant that we may
“journey together, young and old…
to nourish our enthusiasm, cause dreams to emerge,
awaken prophesies and enable hope to blossom.” *
Jesus Christ, Redeemer of all humankind,
open our hearts to encounter all young people,
to accompany and be in community together,
and as one Church, embark upon our holy mission.
Jesus Christ, in the company
of the Father and the Holy Spirit,
graciously hear our prayer
and be with us forevermore.