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‘Amazing’ Mass to celebrate young faith

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SAN DIEGO — The Diocese of San Diego’s annual Young Adult Mass takes on added meaning this year, as the COVID pandemic winds down.

The diocesan liturgy, open to Catholics ages 18 to 39, will be celebrated at 6:30 p.m., Sunday, Aug. 15. It will be preceded by an hour of Eucharistic adoration, beginning at 5:30 p.m.

The Mass will be held inside The Immaculata Church, which is located on the campus of the University of San Diego, with Auxiliary Bishop Ramón Bejarano presiding and liturgical music provided by Imperial Valley native José Martínez.

Patrick Rivera, director of the diocesan Office for Young Adult Ministry, noted that the Young Adult Mass typically draws between 500 and 600 young adults from all corners of the diocese, including the Imperial Valley.

He said this year’s Mass, coming after a year and a half of social isolation, will provide a reminder of just how large and diverse the diocese’s young adult population is.

“We’re so used to seeing the people at our parish and maybe a few friends from other parishes,” said Arla Sigarlaki, 35, who coordinates youth and young adult ministry at St. Michael Parish in Paradise Hills. “But seeing the immensity of how alive the diocese is, especially with young adults, I think that’s what’s so amazing” about the annual Mass.

After months of keeping in touch primarily through Zoom and social media, she said, “To actually gather again as a community, to see everyone in person, to celebrate our faith and the Mass all together as one, I think it’s kind of indescribable.”

The Young Adult Mass was first celebrated in 2012.

Last year, the COVID pandemic and resulting lockdown only succeeded in postponing, not canceling the popular event. It was held last October at St. Gabriel Parish in Poway, where a large courtyard and parking lot provided a safe worship space for more than 200 young adults.

Allan Mena, 25, is a member of St. Jude Shrine of the West Parish, where he is part of the music ministry. He has attended the annual Young Adult Mass since 2017 and plans to attend this year’s as well.

“We’re not the future, but the present; we’re the now,” he said of young adults in the Church.

Mena explained what makes the Young Adult Mass so meaningful.

“It really opens up our eyes to see that we’re not alone as young adults and that there are other young adults that are seeking Christ,” he said.

For Kierstin Rowell, 29, the upcoming Mass represents “a bit of a celebration of the fact that we’ve gotten through all of that (pandemic) craziness and gotten to a point where we … can all be in the same place, celebrating the liturgy together.

“That will be particularly special this year, just knowing how long it’s been since we’ve been able to gather as a whole young adult community,” said Rowell, who serves as director of youth and young adult ministry at St. Gabriel Parish.

Rowell sees the Young Adult Mass as an “approachable” way to return to young adult ministry events after COVID, because the Mass is something familiar: “We know how to go to Mass.”

Because Catholics’ faith is centered around the Eucharist, she said, “I think it’s a really approachable way to return (to young adult events), but also I don’t think there is a better way that we could.”

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