By ERIKA ANDERSON, Staff Writer | Published June 22, 2006
A moving and candid testimony from a young adult provided a poignant punctuation mark at Revive, held June 16 at the Georgia International Convention Center.
Kenny McMann, who attends Holy Spirit Church in Atlanta, spoke at the end of the track created for young adults ages 19-40.
A little over three years ago, McMann said, he found himself in some “legal and moral trouble” and faced a crossroad in his life. “I wanted to make some changes and to improve the quality of my lifestyle,” he said. “But I wasn’t sure how to do it.”
McMann ended up moving to Blairsville, where he isolated himself for 18 months, speaking only to people at work.
Eventually he moved back into the city, where he said he “received a second chance” from the legal system.
“I started to pray for the first time in my life,” he said.
Then he started going back to Mass. He volunteered for Habitat for Humanity, trying to give back to God.
He recalls deleting YAM (Young Adult Ministry) e-mails, blowing them off as just spam.
But finally, he went to an event last February and has been hooked ever since.
“I have met some of the best people I have ever known,” he said of his fellow young adults. “For the last three years I truly feel God has been leading my life.”
McMann gave his talk following keynote speaker Mary Beth Bonacci’s address to the young adults. She geared most of her talk to the single young adults in the audience, and encouraged them not to pause their lives, waiting until they get married to truly live.
“Our identity is found in our image and likeness of God,” she said. “We gain fulfillment through love.”
But single people might begin to feel left out as they get older and watch their friends get married. Bonacci, who is single, recalled one recent Mother’s Day Mass when the priest had the mothers stand up.
“You know how the older you get as a single person the more and more awkward it feels when everyone stands up?” she asked with a laugh.
God’s first commandment, spoken in Genesis, she said, was to “go forth, be fruitful and multiply.”
“But you can act as a spiritual mother or a spiritual father now, to children around you, to everyone around you,” she said “Where God’s love is present, there will be fruit—spiritual fruit.”
For 20 years, Bonacci has traveled around the world speaking to teens and young people. She has written two books and writes a regular syndicated column for Catholic magazines and newspapers.
She encouraged the audience to turn to Christ to combat loneliness.
“Loneliness doesn’t go away when you’re married. Loneliness is present even within marriage because we are human and humans let us down sometimes,” she said. “But going to Christ in the Blessed Sacrament and saying you’re what I need, you’re what I want, you know He’s there, you see Him and you feel Him. It makes a difference.”
The young adults had an opportunity to experience that difference as Father Ricardo Bailey, parochial vicar at Holy Spirit Church in Atlanta, introduced eucharistic adoration. Father Bailey, 32, said that it was a “great joy” for him to address the Revive audience as it gives him a chance to talk to his young adult peers.
“If you look at the statistics of our church, we are the ones filling up the pews in the Archdiocese of Atlanta. Therefore we have a great and awesome responsibility,” he said. Priests, religious and lay Catholics have laid the foundation he said. “But we must now answer the call and make our commitment to set this world on fire.”
Jesus calls his believers to be holy, Father Bailey said.
“We are here to ask God through the beauty of eucharistic transformation to make us holy. I understand just how hard it is for you all out there. But we are called to a great and wonderful life with a spirituality that is rooted in the Eucharist.”
“God is in love with all of us. That’s what the Eucharist is all about.”
After his talk, Father Bailey processed to the stage with the monstrance, as the Revive band led praise and worship music.
Jessica Hodges, 26, a parishioner at St. John Neumann Church in Lilburn, said she could relate to aspects in both Bonacci’s and Father Bailey’s talks.
“I loved Father Bailey,” she said. “And I liked the way (Bonacci) was saying that our lives are not about our plan but God’s plan and that loneliness isn’t only for people who aren’t married.”
Hodges has attended previous Revives and looks forward to the “spiritual uplift” she receives from the speakers and her fellow young adults.
“I enjoy the socializing as well because I feel a connection to people who feel the same way (about their faith) that I do.”