By KATIE BUCKIS, Special to the Bulletin | Published June 27, 2014
COLLEGE PARK—While there was not a teen track at the 2014 Eucharistic Congress, a large number of teenagers were part of the immense gathering. The next generation of Catholics fully participated in the different events that took place throughout the congress.
Teens spoke of many different reasons why they are called to the congress. For some it is a family tradition to attend every year, and others come with their parish youth groups. Teenagers were able to participate in the opening procession on Saturday morning, June 21, representing their parishes. Some were at tables inside the Georgia International Convention Center, selling congress T-shirts to participants throughout the day.
The main reason teenagers attended the congress was just out of curiosity to see what happens there and to see everyone from the Catholic Church gathered together.
Tate Foran from St. Theresa Church, Douglasville, even said, “Jesus called me to the Congress.”
The theme of the 2014 Eucharistic Congress was “Go and Make Disciples.” The theme was popular among teenagers. It was important to them to reflect on what they’ve learned through their faith journeys and think about what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.
Ryan McKenley from Corpus Christi Church, Stone Mountain, a St. Pius X High School student, said, “Being a disciple of Jesus means doing whatever makes him happy or at least making a good effort; that makes Jesus happy, too. He wants us to be fishers of men and call more people to follow him.”
Marist School student Emma Carroll from St. Brigid Church, Johns Creek, said, “Disciples of Jesus help others and live out what God wants us to do.”
“A disciple of Jesus has to share their love with others and be out there with their faith,” added Tess Foran, from St. Theresa Church. Both Tess and Tate Foran are home-schooled.
To Steve Macharia, a member of St. John Neumann Church, Lilburn, “Being a disciple of Jesus means carrying out what he wants us to do.”
Many Catholic teenagers also said that Pope Francis has done a good job of connecting with people their age.
“Pope Francis is really relatable and easy to follow and understand,” said Andre D’arcy, from St. Joseph Church, Marietta, who attends Harrison High School.
Victor Orozco, a Sweetwater Middle School student, said, “I pray to Pope Francis when I play soccer.”
Dulce Santos from San Felipe de Jesús Mission, Forest Park, said, “Pope Francis focuses more on how people should act outside of church, not just at church, and he relates to teenagers.”
Mary Ekecie, an Our Lady of Mercy High School student, who attends St. John Neumann Church, Lilburn, said, “Pope Francis’ words of wisdom help me to be a disciple of Christ. He understands people and reaches out to us.”
The congress was a great way for teenagers from different schools and different parishes to connect through their faith. It was a unique experience to share with the new friends they’ve made and their old friends from their own parishes.
From the procession and the excitement stirring at the beginning of the day to the discipleship that they’ve rediscovered, the Eucharistic Congress was an interesting way to connect teenagers of the Archdiocese of Atlanta.
Katie Buckis is a rising senior at Marist School, Atlanta, and Marist intern at The Georgia Bulletin.