Palm Sunday event at Stage AE caters to youths
After his Palm Sunday homily, Pope Francis waded into the crowds of St. Peter's Square to pose for pictures with young people.
On the North Shore on Sunday, young people posed with cardboard cutouts of Popes Francis, Benedict XVI and the late John Paul II at Stage AE, where they gathered for an occasion aimed at reaching out to teenagers.
Teenagers, their chaperones and members of the Diocese of Pittsburgh filled the floor and balconies of Stage AE to sing and dance at Hosanna 2014, a youth rally coinciding with Palm Sunday services and concluding with a Mass celebrated by Bishop David Zubik.
Zubik and a procession of priests, deacons and altar servers began Mass by circling the floor in front of the stage to swing a censer of incense and bless attendees' palm fronds, before leading the Mass from an altar set up on stage.
“This goes a lot deeper” than the usual Palm Sunday service, said Clare Rainome, 14, of Upper St. Clair. “Most teenagers, you'll see them sitting in church just waiting to get out, but this is more involved, more of an exploration of our faith.”
Representatives from St. Paul Seminary answered questions and encouraged young men to consider a calling to the priesthood, but they were there to join in the celebration and show that their priests and future priests had a human side, said seminarian Ryan Dunning.
“Seeing this ... it brings me a lot of joy, hope and reassurance as to what I am doing,” said Dunning, 25, of Rochester, N.Y.
Many of the teens who were there came with church youth groups or with classes preparing them for the sacrament of Confirmation, when a young Catholic affirms his or her bond with the church.
In his homily, Zubik noted that when he offers the sacrament of Confirmation, he follows up by asking the recipient why they were there. Relating to the young audience and the day's Gospel, he wondered aloud how many people who welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem with palm fronds or called for his crucifixion were there because of peer pressure or a mob mentality.
“I hope to God and for God's sake that no one of us is here today because of peer pressure,” Zubik said. “I hope to God and for God's sake that every one of us, one at a time and all together, are willing to bear the name of Christ.”
“There's a reason Jesus chose young people to be his disciples — because they have passion,” said Steve Angrisano, who led most of the afternoon through songs and stories about examples of living a Christian life from his personal experiences.
“Either we walk out of here willing to be a reflection of God's love, or we walk out of here afraid to be a reflection of God's love.”
Matthew Santoni is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5625 or firstname.lastname@example.org.