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Hundreds of Maine Teens and Bishop Deeley Gather for 2017 Catholic Youth Convention in Rockport

ROCKPORT---“I love it! It’s absolutely amazing to see these other young Catholics gathering together as one, praying together, hanging out together, and meeting people,” said Emily Amann, a teen from St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish in Scarborough. “It’s amazing!”

Nearly 230 teens and adult chaperones traveled to Samoset Resort in Rockport on April 21-23 for a weekend of celebrating the Catholic faith and the gifts that young people bring to the life of the Church.

The 2017 Catholic Youth Convention (additional pictures below) drew participants from Wells to Madawaska and many points between, all converging for the opportunity to build friendships, grow in faith, and have fun.

“It is fantastic. It is so much better than I expected and I was expecting a lot!” said Henry Kindler of Holy Spirit Parish in Wells. “It’s really amazing. I didn’t fully understand that there were this many Catholic teens. The sense of community is so refreshing."

The convention was organized by the Catholic Youth Leadership Team, comprised of 14 youth representatives from around the diocese and adult advisors. The weekend featured workshops, discussion groups, dancing, games, morning and evening prayer, and daily Masses.

The convention’s theme was “We Are One,” with an Olympic-like logo on full display.

“What a better way to bring everyone together than the Olympics?” said Joshua Guillemette of St. Thérèse of Lisieux Parish in Sanford who is a member of the Catholic Youth Leadership Team. “You get all the parishes from around the state all gathering in one place to show unity as a Catholic Church. We found that fitting.”

“Sometimes you don’t realize how many young Catholics there are around,” said Mary Daniels, who will represent Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception Parish in Portland on next year’s Catholic Youth Leadership Team. “When you come to an event like this, it’s inspiring to see so many young people who care about their faith. It’s inspiring for me to see this so I can be closer to my faith as well.”

The convention workshops covered a wide variety of themes but were all designed to give the young people something they can take home to deal with issues that might arise in their lives.

“For example, some of them lost loved ones this year so Fr. Bob Vaillancourt gave a workshop about navigating through grief and loss,” said Maureen Provencher, the coordinator for youth and young adult ministry in the Diocese of Portland. “If we are going to be unified, like ‘We Are One,’ then we have to talk about the hard stuff and how do we get through that but, more importantly, how we are going to get through things together.”

National speaker Doug Tooke also offered two presentations during the convention, giving examples from Scripture of the many young people who God called, illustrating how God works through everybody, regardless of age. Tooke, who has nearly 20 years of diocesan youth ministry experience, has spoken around the country about youth ministry, family dynamics, and leadership development.

Andrew Guimond from Our Lady of the Valley Parish in St. Agatha served as the convention’s youth keynote speaker.

“Love is beautiful and freeing,” said Guimond. “The Catholic Church is built upon a strong community and a strong spread of love throughout the world. The unity formed and felt by the community of the Church is created by God’s love. When we come together in and through Jesus and the Eucharist, we become his body in the world.”

The convention also served as an opportunity to evangelize. Most of the attendees were Catholic, but some of the newcomers are not.

“Convention is such an open and welcome environment. Newcomers really enjoy coming to this retreat because they just feel welcome,” said Guillemette. “We have people here who aren’t Catholic and some who are taking classes to become Catholic. This will help them further their education and be able to further their relationship with Christ so now they can be initiated into the Church. It’s beautiful.”

On Sunday, April 23, Bishop Robert P. Deeley celebrated the convention’s Closing Mass.

“It’s very important to continue doing the good that you do in the communities in which you live. You’re an important part of your parish communities all over this wonderful state of Maine,” the bishop told the teens. “Your presence is life giving to the communities of which you are a part. So, participate, take part, make sure you take part in the Sunday Eucharist at your parish. Make sure you are there so other young people might say ‘well, if he is doing that, maybe I can’ and ‘if she is helping out at the soup kitchen, maybe I can.’ That’s the way in which you become disciples.”

Staying true to the Olympic theme, a closing ceremony included a recognition of volunteers, a lowering of the backdrop, a flag parade of parishes, and even a “proclamation” of the next host city for the 2018 convention which will be held in Portland.

On Saturday night, youth and adults who provide an exemplary model of living the Gospel life were recognized during the convention banquet. St. Timothy Awards are given to junior or seniors in high school who exhibit Catholic morals and integrity, demonstrate Gospel values through service to others, and display Christian leadership. The twelve recipients this year were: Madelyn Dichard and Jacob Gould of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Bangor, Sam Roussel of St. Anne Parish in Gorham, Morgan Grant and Bethany Tabb of St. Mary of the Visitation Parish in Houlton, Connor Maurais of St. Rose of Lima Parish in Jay, Alex Lagasse of Notre Dame du Mont Carmel Parish in Madawaska, Andrew Guimond of Our Lady of the Valley Parish in St. Agatha, Philip Bodge and Joshua Guillemette of St. Thérèse of Lisieux Parish in Sanford, and Emily Amann and Josh Passarelli of St. Maximilian Kolbe in Scarborough.

Companions on the Journey Awards are given to adults who demonstrate excellence, leadership, and commitment in service to youth ministry. The three recipients this year were: Donna Storer of St. Rose of Lima Parish in Jay, Kathleen Lagasse of Notre Dame du Mont Carmel Parish in Madawaska, and Shelly Carpenter of St. Thérèse of Lisieux Parish in Sanford.

The youth convention is one of three major youth gatherings organized annually by the Diocese of Portland’s Office of Lifelong Faith Formation. In July, the office presents New Evangelization Week, a week of leadership training aimed at helping teens become better disciples and evangelizers. In October, the office hosts the Journey Retreat, which invites young people to respond to Jesus by faithfully serving God and neighbor.