By SAMANTHA SMITH, Staff Writer | Published July 11, 2019
COLLEGE PARK—Middle and high school students from various parishes attended this year’s teen track at the Eucharistic Congress, held on June 22.
The teen track returned to the Eucharistic Congress this year after a break. Youth in the sixth through twelfth grades assembled in the Tango Ballroom of the new Renaissance Atlanta Airport Hotel, located across the street from the Georgia International Convention Center. Youth ministry leaders and volunteers served as chaperones for nearly 400 students, most high school youth.
“We want the teens to know that they are important to the church and we are looking to them to be our next group of disciples of Jesus,” said Elaine Phillips, associate director of youth ministry for the Archdiocese of Atlanta.
The day included adoration, inspirational speakers and breakout sessions. Praise and worship was led by EPIC the Band, a young adult music group from Miami, Florida dedicated to sharing the Gospel through music. Bishop Bernard E. Shlesinger III led eucharistic Adoration for the teens.
Ta Say, 16, a parishioner and altar server at Corpus Christi Church in Stone Mountain, said the track was great.
“It’s just like Steubenville. It’s really exciting music to attract other teens,” he said.
Jessie Corsey served as the emcee for this year’s teen track. She is the director of youth ministry for Prince of Peace Church in Flowery Branch.
Keeping the momentum of the track going, she led interactive games, gave away prizes and got the teens to move around throughout the event.
Corsey shared her experience of brokenness with the youth. She pursued soccer, but felt it was not enough.
“So often we live in a world where we feel alone,” she said.
However, by witnessing a friend keep her faith through a serious illness, Corsey was inspired to build a stronger relationship with Christ.
“God the Father pursued me through his Son,” she said.
“The Lord desires to look and see each and every one of you,” said Corsey. “Wherever you’re at, know that the Lord is coming for you,” she explained to the teens.
‘God has a plan for your life’
During breakout sessions, Father Michael Silloway, pastor of Christ Our King and Savior in Greensboro, shared his spiritual journey as a priest for the Archdiocese of Atlanta.
Father Silloway has been a priest for nine years and served as chaplain of St. Pius X High School in Atlanta for over five years.
As pastor, he said, “Every day is an adventure” because you encounter new people.
After sharing his story, Father Silloway said to the teens, “God has a plan for your life. God is speaking to you all the time.”
He encouraged the teens to “build up the kingdom of God through sacrificial love.”
The final talk of the track was given by Father Michael Schmitz, director of youth and young adult ministry for the Diocese of Duluth, Minnesota and chaplain for Newman Catholic Campus Ministries at the University of Minnesota Duluth.
His use of technology for evangelization has led to more than 40,000 followers on multiple social media platforms. His over 230 videos on the Ascension Presents YouTube channel has more than 1.5 million views.
Online, he discusses issues that are relatable, such as making friends, procrastination, being involved in church or loneliness, and then he provides a Catholic perspective.
During his talk, Father Schmitz asked the teens to reflect on their reasons for attending Mass—if they were there to simply watch, versus to worship.
“We’re called to give God our best,” but we usually want to give our leftovers, said Father Schmitz.
“The heart of religion is worship. The heart of worship is sacrifice,” he said. The point of Mass is not to get something, but to give something, said Father Schmitz.
“Always and forever go to Mass and worship,” he said.
Eli Buckley, 13, an usher from St. Philip Benizi Church in Jonesboro, said Father Schmitz’s talk inspired him to take church more seriously. Buckley believes Father Schmitz’s words will “inspire other kids to learn to trust God more.”
Find Father Schmitz online at youtube.com/ascensionpresents.