By Marnie McAllister, Record Editor
In a former gym full of more than 150 teenagers, high school senior Carla Bravo said she encountered Jesus.
The encounter happened during the first keynote presentation of Paul J. Kim, who led the 2019 ArchLou Catholic Youth Conference at the Flaget Center March 2.
“He was really vibrant and got our attention in a way that was spiritual,” and led to a “passionate and strong moment” of encounter, said Bravo, a parishioner of St. John the Apostle Church in Brandenburg, Ky.
Kim delivered high energy performance presentations — mingling music, rhythm and Gospel teachings to bring his listeners to laughter and awe in the same hour.
He addressed the teens twice —in the morning and after lunch. And Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz joined the teens for a quick presentation after lunch, too.
Both men pointed their listeners to God’s plan.
Raising the perennial question, “What’s the purpose of life?” Kim told his young listeners, “Life is short. The way we choose to live our meager years in life will determine where we will spend all of eternity.”
And the most important things to remember, he said, are:
- “Love the Lord your God.”
- “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
“If all we’re worried about is appearance or ourselves, we’re not finding what we’re looking for,” Kim said. “It’s not here” on a screen, he said gesturing to his hand.
Those things leave you empty, he said. What we’re looking for lies in loving God and other people, he said.
“If you do something kind for others, it fills you up. We are hard-wired for it. We are made in the image and likeness of God and God is love.”
By this logic, he said, when people are selfish, they’re miserable. When they live for others, they’re happy.
The purpose of life, he concluded, is to love God and love your neighbor.
“The last judgment is about how we made our life a gift for others. What you decide to do with your life is your gift to God,” he added.
Similarly, Archbishop Kurtz urged the young people to embrace “the adventure of life” by being open to God’s plan.
“Pray that you will be open to God’s plan in your life. You will never regret that.”
He noted that his older brother Georgie was born with Down syndrome. Had his parents known ahead of time, they would have said they weren’t up to the challenge.
But, the archbishop said, Georgie was a gift to his family.
“God gives us blessings and he supplies” what we need, he said.
The archbishop also encouraged the teens to be open to dialogue with the people in their lives — by both sharing and listening.
“A dialogue is a two-way street,” he said.
Noting that Ash Wednesday was just days away, he also asked the teens to use the day to prepare for Lent.
In addition to the speakers, the teens had multiple small-group sessions on a variety of topics. The topics included love, gentleness, faithfulness, self control, modesty, peace, chastity and kindness.
The teens also had the opportunity for reconciliation and for adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.
Carla Bravo, who said she encountered Jesus, noted that she isn’t new to large gatherings of youth. She has attended the National Catholic Youth Conference, which draws thousands.
The gatherings help her feel more connected to a larger faith community, she said. But that’s not what these events are all about, she added.
“You’re not just here to be with other kids, you’re with God.”
Jennifer Tran, a member of St. John Vianney Church felt the same way about the day.
“I feel like we’ve connected closely with God, being in the moment, away from technology,” she said. “When we closed our eyes (in the morning session) I really felt God’s presence.”