Youth party in parish parking lot

By  Vanessa Greco, Catholic Register Special
  • October 12, 2007
{mosimage}WOODBRIDGE, Ont. - The St. Margaret Mary Church parking lot was abuzz with activity during the first ever day-long Youth Festival in September hosted by the parish’s youth group.

Toddlers jumped in an inflatable playground, volunteers barbecued hamburgers and parishioners renewed acquaintances while on stage Gabriella Caruso belted out a soulful rendition of the Etta James classic “At Last.”  

While the festival was co-ordinated by young adults intended for young adults, it became a communal gathering for the entire parish.

In light of the parish’s 50th anniversary this month, Fr. Rony D. Grayda, associate pastor of St. Margaret Mary parish, said the festival was a special gift to the parish.

“Youth are very important to the church,” he said. “They are the future, the ones that are going to carry the faith on.”

Establishing a sense of community amongst Catholic youth was the festival’s main objective.

“This is an opportunity to showcase and celebrate the God-given talents of young people in the community,” said Manuel “JJ” Deocampo, president of the St. Margaret Mary youth group and festival co-ordinator.

The festivities included a non-profit outdoor concert highlighting the gifts of young local singers and musicians. The eclectic lineup ranged from an opera performance by  Christopher Dallo to local punk rock band SOPE.

While alternative rock or bluesy cover ballads aren’t likely to appear in hymn books any time soon, many of the youth argued that the performances did not secularize the event.

Justin Darmanin, lead vocalist for the acoustic rock duo Weekend Warriors, believes an event like this can bridge the gap between the church and local youth.

“Most people consider music in any form a spiritual experience,” said Darmanin. “Why not reaffirm that belief and host the event at a church?”

Miss Woodbridge Italia 2007 Serena Genova expressed similar sentiments. “Music is a wonderful way for the church to appeal to youth. It has the power to bring the community together.”

In the months leading up to the Youth Festival, Deocampo successfully pitched the idea for the event to the parish’s executive committee, lobbied for financial support to the Vaughan City Council and recruited the help of many young adults along the way.

Tony Carella, a City of Vaughan councillor, strongly supported the festival. “Historically, parishes were the social as well as the spiritual heart of Christian communities,” he said. “It is a Christian community engaged in another form of communal expression, more social than spiritual, I suppose, but no less communal.”

Carella believes that an event like this festival is proof that youth are indeed active in the life of the parish.

(Greco is first-year journalism student at Ryerson University in Toronto.)

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