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On Feb. 15, a day after Ash Wednesday, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles kicked off its annual Religious Education Congress at the Anaheim Convention Center with the beloved Youth Day event. This year’s Youth Day theme was “Your Path Awaits,” and included guest speakers, exhibits, electrifying music and concluded with a Mass celebrated by Los Angeles Archbishop José Gómez and concelebrated by Bishop Alberto Rojas.

LA Youth Day began with welcoming the young Catholics into the 28,000 square foot arena with glorious live music.

“I like that everybody’s together, that’s always my favorite part,” said Christian Cadenas, who chaperoned the youth group from Corpus Christi Church, Corona. “This is, I think, my third youth day and my favorite part is always everybody being in a community. Especially in that opening session when we are all in that big arena and we take up, I don’t know how many rows of seating, I just find it really nice that there are so many young people from the Church that chose to come.”

After the live music, the LA Youth Day Spirit Squad, which is a group of young Catholics from various dioceses, performed their first of many educational skits. Once the guests filled the arena, the first guest speaker and magician, Giancarlo Bernini, took the stage. Bernini, using rope, card and other illusions, shared his personal experiences to show the importance of seeking truth in life.
After a few magic tricks, Bernini shared a personal story about when he went through a difficult time in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic when he mistreated a friend. Bernini concluded his story by saying that even when he felt deep grief, and did not feel forgiven, that God was always with him.

“The words that moved me today, was the magician,” said 16-year-old Andreas Morales of Rialto. “He said even when you feel alone, God is always there, even if you can’t feel his presence, you’re never alone.”

Morales also recognized that LA Youth Day, which is planned by young people, for young people, is a symbol for the longevity of the Catholic Church.

“My favorite part of today was seeing all these nice faces, all these young faces. [Also] knowing that our Church has a really long history behind it, and it has an even longer future,” Morales said.
For 17-year-old Galia Garcia from San Bernardino, listening to the music at LA Youth Day was what moved her the most and she said she will use what she learned to affect her own life.

“What moved me today was the little concert that we had. [The verse] was ‘God make me your vessel.’ I just feel like that has so much meaning behind it because you can really make a difference in anybody’s everyday life,” Garcia said. “I feel like everything said here today is definitely beneficial to my everyday tasks.”

When the morning session in the arena was over, it was time for lunch. During lunch, the youth attendees from the Diocese of San Bernardino received a special opportunity to meet and greet Bishop Rojas. After meeting and speaking with the Bishop, and snapping a few photos with him, the youth made their way back into the arena to celebrate Mass.

To begin Mass, clergy, including Archbishop Gómez and Bishop Rojas, processed in while the youth choir filled the arena with their powerful voices. During the homily, Archbishop Gómez spoke to the youth about choosing to follow Christ and about the many voices today that try to influence them.

“As you know, we have a lot of choices nowadays for how we can live. Open up social media and you’re going to find a lot of people telling you what makes them happy and trying to influence you into following a way of thinking and living,” Archbishop Gómez said.

Archbishop Gómez went on to say that despite all the negative ideas in the world, there are still a lot of good, positive ideas out there, but that they are still human ideas.

“Now, when you open up the bible, you find God’s ideas. And God’s ideas are not opinions or alternatives, God is telling you the truth about who He is and about who you are and about what will truly make your life a happy life,” Archbishop Gómez said.

During Communion, the priests and bishops, including Bishop Rojas, went out near the stands to distribute the Eucharist. The youth choir continued to praise the Lord through inspiring songs and, about halfway through distributing the Eucharist, the attendees turned on the flash on their phones and began to wave their light from their seats. Many attendees, including Archbishop Gómez, joined in on shining their lights, which not only visually illuminated LA Youth Day, but symbolically reflected the bright light the youth will carry with them on their awaited path.

Elena Macias is the Managing Editor of the Inland Catholic BYTE