By Abbey Schuhmann
COVINGTON, La. – On Saturday, March 17, the Feast of St. Patrick, teens and adult leaders from 22 parishes from around the Diocese of Jackson traveled to St. Joseph Abbey and Seminary College for the 2018 Abbey Youth Festival (AYF). The theme for the day was “Arise” coming from the gospel for that weekend.
The 2018 AYF logo was designed by seminarian, Luke Mayeux of the Diocese of Beaumont. The image is an imitation of the Dom Gregory de Wit painting in the apse of the St. Joseph Abbey Church which hosted AYF. Inspired by St. Patrick’s Breastplate prayer, the logo exemplifies the Christo-centric aspect of the prayer, while the 12 stars symbolize discipleship as well as the Blessed Mother inviting us to her son. The image of the Risen Lord invokes the message found in the Gospel from the day: “And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” John 12: 20-33.
The seminarians at St. Joseph Seminary College play a vital role in the production of AYF including Andrew Bowden and Tristan Stovall from the Diocese of Jackson. This year’s festival brought in more than 3,000 young people from Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Tennessee. The festival always boasts a packed schedule that includes faith-filled music, prayer, catechesis, fellowship and fun. Showers on Friday did not make for ideal conditions, but organizers made accomodations and the day went forward as scheduled. For the first time, much of the festival was hosted on the main campus. Another new addition to the program schedule was the opportunity to attend breakout sessions throughout the day. Father Brad Doyle and Father Bryce Sibley offered the keynote presentation. Emily Wilson presented the breakout session for teen girls while Austin Ashcraft, Joe Bass, Father Doyle and John Finch led the session for teen guys.
Adult leaders had the opportunity to attend a session discussing “Ministry in the Modern Age.” The Vigil Project and Ike Ndolo, Catholic song-writers and recording artists, entertained the crowd with two different concerts. The Vigil Project also provided music for Mass and Eucharistic adoration. All participants had the opportunity throughout the day to visit different vendor booths including religious orders and communities from all around the country. Because of the venue change, groups could tour the beautiful Abbey church on campus. Many teens and adults took advantage of the opportunity to receive the sacrament of Reconciliation.
This year’s prayer chapel area featured an exhibit of Eucharistic miracles from around the world. The day wrapped up with Mass and candlelight adoration – the highlight of the event for most participants. Archbishop Gregory Aymond of the Archdiocese of New Orleans celebrated the Mass; the homilist was Father Colm Cahill of the Archdiocese of New Orleans. The common theme throughout the day was for teens to “take action” in their faith. Each person is called to something great and now is the time to “Arise” and heed the call.
The Luck of the Irish kept the rain away for the majority of the day, while the ground was still very muddy from the previous day’s showers; most teens embraced the day and the circumstances.
Abbey Youth Fest is an excellent opportunity for teens to see the bigger church and enjoy fellowship with other young Catholics. This was the eighth year for thisdiocese to sponsor a trip and it won’t be the last. Make plans to participate in the 2019 event scheduled for Saturday, March 23rd. For more information visit www.abbeyyouthfest.com or contact the Office of Youth Ministry at 601-949-6934 or Abbey.Schuhmann@jacksondiocese.org
(Abbey Schuhmann is the coordinator of youth ministry for the Diocese of Jackson.)