This weekend, on the campus of UCLA, a gathering of teenagers is happening who will “encounter Christ through fellowship, praise and worship, as they participate in workshops presented by renowned speakers, including youth leaders,” according to a statement issued by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
The event is the third annual ‘City of Saints,’ and will bring an anticipated 1,600 teenagers from across 80 parishes and schools throughout the archdiocese which includes Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, and Ventura.
It is hosted by Archbishop Jose Gomez and the archioceses’s Office of Religious Education.
“City of Saints is a festival of hope,” said Gomez. “If you want to see why I am hopeful for the Church in Los Angeles and the Church in this country — come pray with us this weekend. The faith of these young people — their love for Jesus, their desire to live their faith and share their faith — it is beautiful to witness. And it is contagious. I cannot wait!”
If the numbers they’re expecting materialize, Gomez will have his hands full when he welcomes the teens on Friday to the conference with a Mass in the De Neve Auditorium. The idea is that these social media-addicted youth, briefly anyway, will put away their cell phones and prepare themselves to follow Gomez in an outdoor Eucharistic procession to a sacred space, where they’ll meet with spiritual directors who will share different prayer paths such as meditation and adoration.
There will be eight opportunities for the sacrament of reconciliation, as well as two liturgies during the event. Participants will also be able to do some fun and silly things as well such as play giant Jenga and a life-sized version of Hungry, Hungry Hippo.
Madelyn Cruz, a 15-year-old participant from Palmdale, CA, said she’s looking forward to the adoration. She had heard good things, such as that it’s a “moving time for a lot of people,” especially given that “a lot of people haven’t felt God’s presence like that.” She said she’s “looking forward to experiencing it for myself.”
When asked by Crux if she was looking forward to the giant Jenga game, she said she didn’t know about it, but she’s “looking forward to it now!”
There will be general sessions followed by breakout sessions for the teens to attend, and they will be able to hear at least two different speakers. Also, the event will feature many Catholic organizations and some Catholic colleges for the teens to get to know.
Perhaps one of the most fun and unique things on campus this weekend should be running into the archbishop himself, just walking around and looking to talk.
Victoria Radleigh-Smith, Coordinator of Youth Ministry for the L.A. Archdiocese, said that one of Gomez’s favorite parts of the event is to get to know and talk to the teenagers. He is also somewhat “notorious for taking selfies,” she said.
So, nobody should be surprised if Gomez makes an appearance on quite a few Instagram feeds this weekend.
Radleigh-Smith said that there will be eleven new groups this year joining forty-six returning groups. She sees this as, “a sign of growth and great retention.”
There will also be a conversation about the upcoming Synod on Youth to be held in Rome in 2018. Youth ministers from all five regions within the archdiocese were chosen. The Archdiocese of Los Angeles is the largest in the country in terms of both population and geographic reach, and Radleigh-Smith said every effort is made to include all the areas it spans.
Cruz is one of the young people chosen to participate in the conversation. When asked what she would like to tell the Pope and the bishops gathered in Rome during the synod, she said she would tell them, “We are the here, the now, and also the future of the Church.”