By STEPHEN O’KANE, Staff Writer | Published July 3, 2008
More than 800 gathered at Georgia International Congress Center Friday, June 20, to kick off the young adult track of the Eucharistic Congress with Revive!, a high-energy expression of faith for young adults.
Revive! featured music, speakers and eucharistic adoration, in hopes of renewing young adults’ faith in what seems to be an increasingly faithless world.
Several young adults arrived prior to the start of the event and gathered near the exhibit hall doors to chat and enjoy each other’s company. Many perused the ministry tables set up in the back, which included representatives from groups such as TEC (To Encounter Christ), Toastmasters Club, Mustard Seed Communities, Catholic Student Association and On the Deck College Ministry.
As the evening started, Father Ricardo Bailey, chaplain at Blessed Trinity High School, Roswell, took to the stage to start the evening and introduce Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory.
“Give God the praise,” Father Bailey shouted as he encouraged those present to raise their hands and worship God.
The crowd replied with applause and noises of excitement in anticipation of the evening’s events.
Following a brief introduction, Archbishop Gregory walked on stage and chimed in, “It’s hard to follow Father Crunk!”
“I know Revive! will be a great success this evening,” the archbishop added, telling the young adults that their faith was “apparent and energizing.”
The evening flowed on with praise and worship music from Curtis Stephan and band. Stephan is a Catholic musician known for his music ministry at the 18,000-member St. Ann’s Church in Coppell, Texas.
Desmond Drummer, a seminarian for the Atlanta Archdiocese and emcee for the evening, told the crowd, “A table has been set for you tonight. … There is no church like the Catholic Church.”
“It was very apparent that the young adults who participated in Revive! take their faith seriously and are empowered by the Holy Spirit in their journey to seek the face of the Lord,” added Drummer by e-mail following the event.
The evening’s first speaker, Matthew Kelly, is a Catholic best-selling author hailing from Australia. Many attendees were already familiar with Kelly, who has sold a million copies of his books in more than a dozen languages.
“It was my first time seeing him speak in person, and I really felt the impact of his message, as he kept us laughing and nodding in agreement,” said Chris Propis, a member of St. Brigid Church, Johns Creek, and first-time attendee to Revive!
“He has a gift that allows him to relate to all demographics, and his method of simplifying life’s challenges really made me feel as if I can embrace them and change for the better.”
Kelly’s direct speaking style caught the attention of the crowd, as he rattled off global statistics about religion and named the Catholic Church as the greatest social institution in the world.
“How we see the world determines how we live,” said Kelly, who challenged the worldviews of those present.
Kelly presented the crowd with questions, which he addressed in depth throughout his talk. The first question, “What do you want,” led to discussion about happiness. Kelly claimed that everyone yearns for happiness and that only God can satisfy that desire.
Another question Kelly asked the crowd was, “What does God want?” Here he encouraged the young adults to enter the “classroom of silence” as he believes this is where one will hear the voice of God.
“It’s in the silence that we start to make sense of things,” he said as he emphasized the need to get away from the noise of the world in order learn what God wants from us.
“God is interested in the whole person—physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual,” Kelly continued. “God wants you to become the best version of yourself.”
He concluded by helping the crowd understand that they are “billboards” for Christianity, sending a message to the world whether they realize it or not.
“They’ve got to look at your life and see something they can’t live without,” said Kelly. “God uses the people who make themselves available to him. Are you willing to be one of those people?”
Following Kelly’s talk, John Hartwell, a convert to Catholicism, told the story of how the Toastmasters Club led him to meet Catholics who eventually exposed him to the archdiocese’s young adult ministry (YAM). He attended a TEC retreat and shortly after began the process of becoming Catholic.
“I was really led to understand the true presence,” Hartwell confessed.
He emphasized the importance that YAM had in his life and his conversion, saying that it gives young adults the opportunity to “share the journey with people at this moment.”
“The Archdiocese of Atlanta has made a commitment to us,” Hartwell said at the end of his talk. “It is an opportunity to walk together.”
The testimony served as a seamless segue from the relaxed vibe of Kelly to the evening’s high point, eucharistic adoration.
Drummer prayed with the young adults just before the Eucharist was brought into the hall, inviting God to change the hearts and minds of those who gaze upon his face in the monstrance.
“The components of Revive!—catechesis, praise and worship, testimony, and most of all eucharistic adoration—should become more commonplace in our parishes as a means to further evangelize young adults in this archdiocese and throughout the country,” said Drummer after Revive! “It’s amazing what can happen in a mere two-and-a-half hours.”
Father Neil Dhabliwala slowly carried the monstrance through the middle of the hall as the entire crowd fell to their knees. Once again, hands were raised and eyes were closed in prayer as Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament approached the stage.
Curtis Stephan and band softly played music, never drawing attention away from the event’s most important speaker.
After Father Dhabliwala placed the monstrance on the altar, he invited the young adults to “pray with me in your hearts as I read these words.”
The priest read a prayer from St. Thomas Aquinas and then prayed in his own words asking God to, “help me here and now to experience your great love.”
Father Dhabliwala and the crowd then adored the Blessed Sacrament in silence before the musicians began to play again softly. The doorway to the exhibition hall quickly became crowded as those passing by fell on their knees in adoration.
The priest then led the crowd in Benediction, blessed the assembly with the monstrance and slowly and reverently processed out of the hall.
“Revive! was a great experience,” said Susan Jabaley. “It was my first time, and I feel as though I gained a lot from it. … It was great to go and see so many other people around my same age who were there to grow in the same way I desire to.”
“Overall, the event flowed very smoothly and was a great success,” said Yvonne Noggle, assistant to the Office of Religious Education, who helped plan the evening’s events. “We had the biggest crowd thus far, and we received a lot of positive feedback.”
Christopher Vigil, who has attended several Revive! events in the past, brought first-timers with him to this year’s gathering.
“The Revive track at the Eucharistic Congress was a great experience,” said Vigil. “I took a couple men who are new to young adult ministry events, and they had an amazing first encounter with Jesus and the YAM community. … Good music, good friends, good talks, and Jesus: What could be better?”