By MICHAEL ALEXANDER, Staff Photographer | Published April 26, 2012
After a three-year hiatus, some 400 Hispanic young adults from 22 parishes gathered in the parish hall of St. Andrew Church for the 2012 Pascua Juvenil Easter celebration.
Participants were welcomed to the Saturday, April 14, event by a host of clergy and volunteers. A portion of the parish hall stage was fashioned to resemble an empty tomb. On the left side of the stage was an Easter candle, a wooden cross, and an image of Mary and the Christ Child. On the right side of the stage was a statue of the risen Christ. Each item was meant to serve as a symbolic reminder of faith and the reason the resurrection of Jesus is celebrated.
Before the morning talk a hushed silence came over the hall as the group prepared to receive Jesus’ presence in the Blessed Sacrament. Accompanied by altar servers bearing incense, Father Carlos Mario Bustamante, parochial vicar at Our Lady of the Americas Mission, Lilburn, processed in with the monstrance holding the precious body of Christ. After Benediction and prayers, Father Bustamante carried the monstrance among the young adults around the entire hall.
Once the Blessed Sacrament left the hall, Father Jose Duvan Gonzalez, pastor of St. Bernadette Church, Cedartown, took the stage for the morning talk on “Encountering the Risen Christ.” Father Gonzalez did not confine himself to the stage, however. He went back and forth, working the room, in his animated speaking style. He brought the crowd to uproarious laughter at times and thoughtful reflection at other moments.
“You need to disconnect from the world and connect with God,” Father Gonzalez told the young adults. “If you’re lost, look to Jesus and what he tells you in the Scriptures. Once you encounter Jesus, then you need to go out and tell others about him.”
After the morning talk, the young adults broke into groups to discuss the presentation. Lunch followed. Elmer Menjivar of St. Thomas the Apostle Church, Smyrna, led a group of musicians and vocalists in song while people ate and enjoyed the spiritually uplifting music. The day for young adults 18 and older was co-sponsored by the archdiocesan Office of Formation and Discipleship and archdiocesan Hispanic Ministry.
After lunch the young adult group from St. Joseph Church, Athens, “Tierra Fertil,” led a spiritual activity reminding all of how they should take up their crosses wherever they go and remember that Jesus died for their sins.
Lali Ramos, 23, a 4-foot-11-inch parishioner from St. Pius X Church, Conyers, was a first-time attendee of Pascua Juvenil.
“We all need (spiritual) help. Seeking help for myself will enable me to help others grow closer to Christ,” said Ramos. She said one of the things that stuck with her from Father Gonzalez’s talk was the fact that Christians have to stop being lazy and get closer to God, and it starts with prayer.
The second talk from Father Abel Guerrero-Orta, parochial vicar at St. John Neumann Church, Lilburn, was on the topic of solidarity. Father Mario Lopez also spoke about the call to be missionaries. Father Lopez is a parochial vicar at Sacred Heart of Jesus Basilica, Atlanta. Following each talk, the young adults came together in small groups to discuss and meditate upon the theme of the talk.
The afternoon included an interactive project which required the young adults at each table to construct a fishing net. Each table was equipped with the materials to build it, which they worked on during breaks. By the end of the day, they all brought their nets together to form one big net. Inside the net they placed pieces of paper where they had written positive things each needed to improve upon and the negative things they needed to let go of in order to be a better disciple of Christ.
Wearing a black University of Georgia knit shirt, 27-year-old Eric Hernandez of St. Joseph Church, Athens, felt it was important for him to attend.
“It allows me to grow stronger in the Spirit and it also reminds me how special this season is,” he said.
In the evening Father Guillermo Córdoba, administrator of Our Lady of Americas Mission, was the main celebrant and homilist for the Mass. Father Jesus David Trujillo, parochial vicar at St. George Church, Newnan, concelebrated the Mass.
After Mass, young adults had the chance to share personal testimonies of how Jesus has changed their lives and how they intend to further serve him. All in all, Pascua Juvenil was a day of formation, interaction, spirituality, and the chance to convey personal experiences with God among others.