Bishop Frank J. Dewane is seen Jan. 27 with the participants of the 2018 St. Michael Parish Youth Festival in Wauchula.

Youth festival inspires participants

Wauchula | It takes courage and wisdom to hear the Lord’s call and respond. The challenge of accepting that call with a renewed urgency was put forth for about 200 young men and women who participated in the 2018 youth festival at St. Michael Parish in Wauchula.

Middle and high school-aged youth from across Hardee County participated in the festival Jan. 27, and opened their souls to let Christ be their guiding light. The theme for the day was: “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 18:18)

The youth heard inspirational talks, had fun, ate good food, and went to Mass together. There was even time to participate in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

“This was a great day,” said one young lady. Another described her experience as an emotional rollercoaster: “It has been both fun and draining, but in a very good way. You have to open yourself to Jesus and this was a chance to do that in so many different ways.”

Bishop Frank J. Dewane visited with the youth and offered words of encouragement, praising them for take the first important step of attending the festival. He then challenged the teens to take what they learned throughout the day and have it change how they live their life.

“I like your theme because you need to keep asking the Lord what you need to do to reach eternal life,” Bishop Dewane continued. “It is my prayer that you all get there, but it is on you to do the work to achieve that goal. I know you can do it, otherwise I wouldn’t ask.”

The featured speaker was Gregory Stearns, a teacher and motivational speaker, who talked candidly and honestly about overcoming cultural relativism and gender identity. Based in Church-teaching, Stearns wanted the teens to open their minds to not only what the Church teaches on timely issues, but also why.

“We all think we know what the Church teaches,” Stearns said. “Not even close. We filter what we hear through our brains and what comes out is an interpretation that can lead your away from the Lord.”

St. Michael Parish Parochial Vicar Father Timothy Van Zee, Institute of the Incarnate Word, also spoke to the youth focusing on the theme and offering tools they can use each day to down the right path of faith and closer to the Lord.

An encouraging part of the day was how many of the young people took the opportunity to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Outdoor confessionals were set up and there were long lines as the youth patiently waited their turn. Some of the youth admitted they were hesitant to participate but once they did, it was like a great weight was lifted off their shoulders, some were so relieved that they cried afterwards.