Fort Worth parishioner inspires young people through Catholic hip-hop at World Youth Day 2019

North Texas Catholic
(Feb 20, 2019) Local

El Padrecito and FoundNation artists, backstage prior to a performance at World Youth Day 2019. From left: Nico Santana, Valerio Muralles,  Father Rob Galea (Australia X Factor Contestant 2015), Carlos Zamora, Father Masseo Gonzales (El Padrecito), and John Levi. Not pictured: FoundNation artist Alfonzo Pedroza. (Photo courtesy of El Padrecito Ministries)

If you ask Carlos Zamora about the highlights from his trip Jan. 22-27 to Panama for World Youth Day, you'd expect to hear about performing on the main stage in front of half a million people or standing just 20 feet from Pope Francis during an evening prayer vigil on the last night.

Those were certainly memorable events for Zamora, a Catholic hip-hop artist who performs as C2six. But it was a small venue and visit with a handful of young men that made the biggest impact on his heart.

As C2six, Zamora is a member of the Catholic hip-hop group FoundNation. While the group performed twice on the main stage — on the first night during Opening Ceremonies and the last night after Pope Francis’ vigil — a performance and visit to a prison for youth offenders provided some of the most meaningful moments.

“They’re in very rough living conditions,” Zamora said. “They feel forgotten. One of them told me, ‘It’s good to feel that you’re not forgotten.’ That made my day.”

FoundNation visited the prison the day before Pope Francis went to the same facility. Zamora said it was the first time the facility had allowed lay ministers to interact with prisoners.

The visit was a perfect example of the reason Zamora became a Catholic hip-hop artist. He was a successful secular “gangsta” rapper just over a decade ago when God called him back to his Catholic roots and a renewed faith.

Not long after he began performing Catholic hip-hop music, he became part of FoundNation, a group of Catholic hip-hop artists and evangelists.

“We intentionally try to reach youth and young adults, with a special preference for those who are a little more marginalized like the poor and youth offenders, young people who tend to be written off by society.

“That’s where we feel like we can make the most difference.”

World Youth Day is designed to bring together Catholic young people (ages 15 to 35) from all over the world for an encounter with the pope. Typically held every three years in a different city, the next World Youth Day is set for July 2022 in Lisbon, Portugal.

This marked the second time Zamora performed at World Youth Day (WYD). The first time was six years ago in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. But during WYD 2013, FoundNation performed in a few of the smaller venues.

This time, FoundNation was selected for the main stage. FoundNation is part of El Padrecito Ministries, a nonprofit ministry promoting Catholic arts run by Father Masseo Gonzales, a Franciscan friar in Guadalupe, Calif. Fr. Gonzales, an artist himself and the group’s spiritual guide, submitted a documentary about FoundNation’s WYD 2013 experience, which caught the attention of the Youth Council, a group of young people selecting performers for 2019.

While some older adults don’t really understand hip-hop and may criticize it, many young people connect with it, Fr. Gonzales said. Rap and hip-hop are very emotive and rhythmic.

“A lot of youth and young adults operate on the emotional level,” Fr. Gonzales said. “Music ought to move people toward emotions.”

The goal of Catholic hip-hop music is to reach people for Christ and “make that an instrument of evangelization,” he said.

Carlos Zamora (NTC/Ben Torres)

Take away messages

Zamora said he met people from all over the world who knew FoundNation’s music and said it encouraged them in their faith.

In addition to the main stage, the group performed at a few smaller venues during the week. Whether he performed for big crowds or small crowds, Zamora said he was humbled by the appreciation.

“Most of all it felt like an affirmation that what we’re doing makes a difference,” he said.

He also was touched to observe so many young people devoted to their faith and was blessed to represent the Diocese of Fort Worth at such an amazing event.

“Here at home, it’s great to surround yourself with like-minded people who are devout about faith, especially young people,” he said. “It’s a great motivator to see other people like them from all over the world who are on fire for their faith.”

It also was a reminder of the importance of adult involvement in youth ministry. Many groups he encountered could have brought more youth if they had more adult chaperones.

“We as adults can kind of drop the ball,” he said. “We need to support them in their faith.”

Zamora also appreciated the large number of priests, nuns, bishops, and cardinals he saw at different events who interacted joyfully with young people.

“It puts the clergy in a positive light instead of all the negative media we’ve seen lately,” he said.

By having positive interactions with the clergy, devout youth may consider pursuing a religious vocation.

In addition to Catholic hip-hop, World Youth Day featured many other examples of lay musicians, dancers, and artists who showed young people they can use their talents to glorify God.

Zamora said, “The gifts God gives us are meant to edify the body of Christ.”

Zamora and his wife Maria are parishioners at St. Bartholomew in Fort Worth, along with their daughter Cassandra, 17, and son Julian, 10.

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