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Youth invited to celebrate their faith together

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SAN DIEGO — Between 750 and 900 Catholic teens are expected to attend San Diego Youth Day.

The annual event, sponsored by the diocesan Office for Youth and Young Adult Ministry, will be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday, April 15, at Mater Dei Catholic High School.

The youth rally will include a keynote presentation, as well as breakout sessions, praise-and-worship music, and a closing Mass celebrated by Auxiliary Bishop Ramón Bejarano.

This year’s theme, “Remain in Me,” comes from John 15:4-10, in which Jesus compares Himself to a vine and His disciples to branches that can only bear fruit if they remain on the vine.

San Diego Youth Day is open to all high school students. Participants register through their parish youth minister. The cost to attend is $40 per person.

Maricruz Flores, director of the Office for Youth and Young Adult Ministry, described the event as “a day for all of the diocese to come together as a community and for young people” — surrounded by hundreds of practicing Catholic peers — “to feel that they’re not alone.”

Brilema Perez, associate director, said the event seeks to provide an opportunity for young people “to experience what the Eucharistic community is … in daily life, what that looks like.”

“At the end of the day, it’s community,” she said. “It’s building each other up, being inspired, and invited once again to become the saints that we’re called to be.”

Nationally known speaker Mari Pablo, a presenter for Ascension Press, will deliver the keynote.

Flores said Pablo’s talk will “continue the conversation of mental health,” a topic that rose to prominence in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and lengthy periods of quarantine and social distancing.

Catholic singer-songwriter Chris Estrella, based in the Diocese of San Bernardino, will provide the worship music.

There will also be breakout sessions, including one led by San Diego State University basketball player Aguek Arop, a recently naturalized U.S. citizen from South Sudan, and another focusing on Blessed Carlo Acutis, a late 20th-century Italian teenager known for his Eucharistic devotion, computer savvy and appreciation for videogames.

There will also be opportunities for confession and for silent prayer in the school chapel.

Monica Salazar, youth minister at St. John of the Cross Parish in Lemon Grove, and Evelyn Beale, coordinator of youth and young adult ministry at St. Luke Parish in El Cajon, are members of the event’s planning committee. Both plan to attend with teens from their parishes.

“I’ve noticed, after the conference, (that) teens want to have a relationship with God and they are more open to seeing what God has for them,” Salazar said.

Salazar hopes that teens will leave with the understanding “that they have a loving Father and that He has chosen them to do great things; that, when we remain in Him, He can transform our lives and bring true happiness.”

Beale described San Diego Youth Day as “a unique opportunity for youth from our parishes to experience the universality and diversity of the Catholic Church.”

For participants, she said, “I hope they feel how much the Catholic Church cares about them and that they are loved and accepted. Ultimately, I hope they leave this experience knowing that they are loved unconditionally by our Lord and their faith community.”

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