ORLANDO | Reaching a summit requires commitment and perseverance as does following the path God has for each of us. Over the course of two days, Bob Perron, director of JMJ Pregnancy Center, emceed the Office of Laity, Family and Life’s Young Adult and Youth Summits at Bishop Moore Catholic High School.
Christina Hiromoto and Julianna Love were curious about discerning God’s plan for their lives. As members of the young adult ministry at St. James Cathedral, they seized the opportunity at the Young Adult Summit, Oct. 8, 2021.
Hiromoto and Love were two of more than 60 young adults across the diocese attending the summit. The evening included presentations from Bishop John Noonan and Perron, who guided participants on listening to God and building a relationship.
“Holiness doesn’t look the same for everyone,” Hiromoto said. “The stories (Perron) shared inspire me to move forward and strive for holiness in the way God is calling me.”
In Perron’s talk, he discussed five ways to become the saints: be authentic, grow in prayerfulness, avoid sin, know it can’t be done alone, and embrace struggle. Perron addressed the need for cultivating a strong prayer life, even if that begins by thanking God for something every time you walk through a door.
“By doing that, I learned I never run out of things to be thankful for, and that leads me to trust God more, which then opens my heart to listen and trust Him with the bigger things,” he said, adding a quote from Father Thomas Keating, pioneer in the Christian contemplative prayer: “Silence is the language of God; everything else is a poor translation.”
This quote struck a chord with the young adults.
“I realized I need to sit in silence in that direct channel with God. It is something I want to do more often,” Love said. “My biggest takeaways are more prayer and reflecting on God’s blessings.”
Bishop Noonan encouraged them to consider whether they are living the life they want to live or whether they are “running away from something” as they work through fear of the unknown. He asked them to be involved in the community, minister to one another, and live the mission of the Gospel by example.
“Everyone is called in some way,” Bishop Noonan said. “The Lord inspires us and speaks to us through moments of encounter with others, stories, the presence of religious (brothers and sisters) and marriage.”
Youth Summit keynoter Paul J. Kim said encounters are necessary for transformation. “The catechesis, the invitations — they matter. Throughout the Gospel, people were simply invited to see what the Lord was up to,” he said. “The invitation was important, but it was in the encounter where they saw for themselves and experienced how good God was. That’s where the lasting change happened. That equation isn’t really different in 2021.”
Although he captured the crowd’s attention by beatboxing in his opener, Oct. 9, through humor and thoughtful prayer, he shared his own testimony and invited attendees to follow God, who loves them like no other.
“A while back God put the desire on my heart to reach this generation. By statistical terms, they are leaving the Church more rapidly than they’re joining it. I know, for myself, it was encountering Christ and discovering the beauty of my Catholic faith that, not only kept me here, but made me want to invite others.”
Both Perron and Kim provided moments of silence, offering all a chance to speak to God in prayer and during Eucharistic Adoration. Jakob, a ninth-grader from Holy Name of Jesus Parish in Indialantic, appreciated it.
“The lights were turned off. There was music playing. I could talk to God myself. It wasn’t loud. In the world, it’s loud a lot,” he said.
Adoration is also what struck Kate, a junior from St. Mary of the Lakes Parish in Eustis. “Just the feeling that you’re literally gazing on Jesus’s face and that He’s gazing back it’s really, really profound.”
Both groups participated in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. This was the highlight for Lensa, a sophomore from Holy Name of Jesus, especially since the priest made the Sacrament personal and not like a “mandatory” chore. She said she could relate to much of Kim’s talk and found the entire day a joyful surprise.
“(The Summit) gave young adults a chance to hear the heart of their shepherd and gave Bishop Noonan a chance to draw near to the young adults, listening to their needs so he can better understand how to accompany them as they follow Jesus,” said Dan Boyd, secretary for Laity, Family and Life, agreeing with Perron who said the “young Church is hungry.” “Everyone, young people included, are seeking meaning, truth, belonging. They find these things in Jesus. Paul J. Kim gave teens from around the diocese the chance to hear the story of Jesus in a powerful way and invited them to follow Jesus so they could find that sense of truth and belonging they yearn for.”
Itzel, a St. Paul parishioner, echoed the thoughts many from both events experienced. The high school sophomore from Leesburg said her takeaway was, “Jesus will always be here, by our side. We don’t have to worry about going through this journey alone. It might be very long and tough, but He’s going to be there every step of the way.”