The Holy Spirit gathered thousands of youth at Six Flags World Youth Day

By Jacqueline Burkepile

Correspondent

North Texas Catholic

Members of Good Shepherd youth and the the chaperone stop to pose for a picture during the World Youth Day held as Six Flags over Texas Oct. 21.
Youth from Good Shepherd parish and their chaperon stop to pose for a picture in front the Texas during the World Youth Day held at Six Flags Over Texas Oct. 21.

Singing, worship, fellowship, and faith filled the Six Flags Over Texas Park on October 21 as the Dallas and Fort Worth dioceses celebrated World Youth Day together. The theme of the event was “We walk by faith and not by sight,” from 2 Corinthians 5:7, coinciding with Pope Benedict XVI’s Year of Faith.

Junior high and high school students flooded the theme park wearing colorful parish or diocesan World Youth Day t-shirts, each parish sporting a different color. The day began with games and thrill rides, followed by prayer, praise and worship with guests David Casey and Doug Tooke of Monarch Catholic Ministries at 4 p.m. More than 7,000 youth and their adult leaders attended Mass beginning at 5 p.m. with Bishop Kevin Vann and Dallas Diocese Auxiliary Bishop Mark Seitz.

Kevin Prevou, Diocesan Director of Youth, Young Adult, and Campus Ministry, said Six Flags is a great place to gather youth for this annual evangelical festivity. He invites those from both the Dallas and Fort Worth dioceses to attend, as well as youth from other dioceses, such as Austin and Tyler.

“It is at Six Flags because of the nature of the event: to celebrate the gift of youth for our Church and to evangelize to young people.”

David Casey and Doug Tooke flew in from the Diocese of Helena in Montana to prepare and focus the youth on Christ before Mass began. They lead the congregation with music, a Gospel presentation, worship, and interactive storytelling.  Tooke said he enjoys large youth gatherings because it is about worshiping God.

“It’s about the Lord,” said Tooke. “It’s about coming to the table, recognizing the worth of God, getting to share the word and seeing the value of that.”

Many youth and adult leaders told the North Texas Catholic why they enjoyed World Youth Day this year. Mackenzie Evans, a high school sophomore attending Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Denton, said seeing so many Catholics from her diocese was an overwhelming experience.

“This is my fourth year going and I know it’s fun,” said Evans. “I just like being with a ton of other people.”

John Waterworth, a seventh grader from Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Colleyville, said his favorite part of the event is gathering with his church group.

“I like roller coasters and I like worshiping,” said Waterworth. “It’s like two in one for twice the fun.”

Teresa Montya, a chaperon for Good Shepherd, said this was her tenth time to attend World Youth Day at Six Flags. She said the Mass is a beautiful and moving experience.

“I think it’s important that my children see an example, so I bring my kids every year so they see that it’s bigger than just our community. It’s a universal Church,” said Montya.

Leslie Hayes, the CYO leader for St. Therese Catholic Church in Canton, comes every year from the Tyler Diocese. Hayes is a convert to Catholicism and thinks more dioceses should celebrate the United States observance of World Youth Day.

“If you don’t strengthen the youth now, you’ve got nothing,” said Hayes. “It’s the same principle with freshman football. If you ignore them, but you’re paying attention to your senior varsity players, in four years, your senior varsity will stink. It’s the same thing with the Catholic youth. If you don’t support them, they fall away.”

Bishop Vann presented the homily for the World Youth Day Mass, focusing on a Christian Twitter feed based on the Gospel. The day then ended with a standing ovation honoring him for his work in the Diocese of Fort Worth. 

Rebecca Martin, a parent and chaperon from St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Keller, said the most remarkable part of the Mass was Bishop Vann’s homily.

“He connected with the youth — inspiring them to witness to the world via their generational tools — Facebook, Twitter, etc. They may have expected something less modern, but what they received was truly inspirational to their generation,” said Martin. “And after a long applause for our bishop, he humbly stood to tell them he would miss them, and they are welcome to go to Disneyland anytime.” (Disneyland is in Anaheim, California in the Diocese of Orange, where Bishop Vann will be installed as the ordinary, Dec. 10.)

Martin’s 12-year-old daughter, Peyton, attended and said World Youth Day brought her closer to God.

“I learned how to trust Jesus more, and I became close to many strangers that God helped me meet and have the strength to be bold,” she said.

David Casey emphasized that those taking part are called to carry the faith with them everywhere they go.

“This is something that has to continue, and the spirit of this in being vessels of the Lord has to continue throughout the week. See you next Sunday.” 

Singing, worship, fellowship, and faith filled the Six Flags Over Texas Park on October 21 as the Dallas and Fort Worth dioceses celebrated World Youth Day together. The theme of the event was “We walk by faith and not by sight,” from 2 Corinthians 5:7, coinciding with Pope Benedict XVI’s Year of Faith.

Published
Back