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Guadalupe Youth Summit focuses on finding identity
The fourth annual Guadalupe Youth Summit held at Ohio Dominican University (ODU) on March 9 brought together more than 300 Latino high school students from throughout the diocese.
Students were present from Columbus Bishop Hartley, Bishop Ready, Cristo Rey Columbus, St. Charles Preparatory, St. Francis DeSales and 13 other high schools.
Father David Schalk, the diocesan vicar for Hispanic ministry, served as the emcee. Bishop Earl Fernandes was joined by seven diocesan priests to celebrate Mass, and three orders of religious sisters were present.
The day began with interactive games, time for praise and worship and Latin American music performed by Father David Arroyo and Father Victor Cano, Theatine Fathers serving at Columbus Christ the King and St. Thomas the Apostle churches.
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The theme for the summit was “María se levantó y partió sin demora,” meaning “Mary got up and went in haste.” The theme is from Luke 1:39, when the Blessed Virgin departs to the hill country after the Annunciation to visit her cousin Elizabeth.
The theme was a call to action.
“All eyes are on you,” Father Schalk said in his opening remarks. “You are the future leaders of the Catholic Church. You are critical.”
Father Schalk addressed challenges facing Latino youth. He said many wrestle with their identity, causing turmoil and confusion.
“You can be 100% Hispanic and 100% American,” Father Schalk said.
The keynote speaker was Mari Pablo, an international speaker and graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville. Pablo travels across the United States and Latin America speaking about the heart of Christ and the beauty of the Catholic faith in Spanish and English, according to her website.
She encouraged the students to “make a decision to have a relationship with God early on.”
Pablo offered four ways for students to emulate the Blessed Virgin’s example in the Visitation: know, listen, follow and give thanks.
Pablo said that the Blessed Virgin knew her identity and acted upon it, which can be seen in her response at the Annunciation and her actions in the Visitation.
“We see Mary’s openness to listen and follow,” she said. “Mary needed to know who she was and that she was worthy.”
Pablo asked the students to think of positive and negative attributes about themselves. She said it might be easier to think of negatives, but it is important to recognize who they are in God’s eyes.
“I had to recognize who I am and what I’m worth,” Pablo said referring to the negative words that were spoken to her, which she thought defined her.
She said that many Latino young adults identify as Catholic because their parents are Catholic. She encouraged the students, in discovering their identity, to focus on their God-given gifts and talents.
“St. Juan Diego did not feel worthy,” Pablo said, reflecting on his visions of Our Lady of Guadalupe on Tepeyac Hill in Mexico in 1531. “But you don’t need to earn your worth.”
Pablo said that part of coming to know an identity and acting upon it is through being vulnerable and showing mercy.
“We think vulnerability is weakness,” she said. “We have three desires: to be seen, known and loved.”
There was a small-group breakout session for students to have a discussion with their peers. The students then returned to the ODU theater for a message from the diocesan superintendent of Catholic schools, Dr. Adam Dufault.
“The reason that we at the Office of Catholic Schools do this is because of you,” Dufault said.
He referenced Pope Francis’ exhortation Christus Vivit (Christ Is Alive), which calls young Christians and all people of God to seek a youthful newness of life in Christ. Dufault said he wants students to have the courage and the confidence to say “yes” to the Lord all the time.
A bilingual Mass celebrated by Bishop Fernandes followed Dufault’s address.
“Part of the reason you are here is because you are leaders,” Bishop Fernandes said in his homily.
The daily Gospel reading was the story of Lazarus and the rich man from Luke.
The bishop said the rich man saw Lazarus’ sores but did nothing to alleviate his suffering. The man was given the world’s advantages but “blew the opportunity to show mercy and charity.”
“To each of us, we need to look in our hearts and ask, ‘Am I indifferent to another person’s suffering?’’’ Bishop Fernandes said.
He told the students that they are called to greater things than the rich man in the Gospel.
“You are called to something greater than the rich man … not mediocrity – the greatness of heaven,” the bishop said. “This is the measure of our greatness: whether we have loved.”
He encouraged the students to follow Christ’s example.
“Jesus at Calvary was stripped of everything,” Bishop Fernandes said. “In His poverty He saved the whole world. Let us ask Jesus to rise to the greatness to which He calls us – to be witnesses to His love.”
For the first time at the Guadalupe summit, a career resource fair was open to students during lunch hour. Eighteen agencies, companies and universities were represented.
In the afternoon, students returned to the ODU theater for a question-and-answer panel discussion with Pablo and Dr. Edgar Mendieta. Mendieta is a Catholic Hispanic orthodontist whose practice, Global Smiles Orthodontics, is located in the Valleyview neighborhood on Columbus’ west side and serves the city’s Latino population.
Mendieta is originally from Los Angeles. His family immigrated to California from Mexico in the 1960s. Mendieta said he will mentor any Hispanic Latino student interested in becoming an orthodontist at no cost. He said that he hopes a student will knock on his office door one day and offer to take over his practice.
Pablo and Mendieta said they both experienced challenges when leaving their cultural “hub.” Mendieta struggled to adjust to life as a student at the University of California at Los Angeles, while Pablo experienced challenges leaving her home in Miami, Florida to attend Franciscan University.
Pablo, who is of Dominican descent, said she was mistaken for a nun when she told her college peers that she was Dominican, and she was asked, “Where is your habit?”
Pablo said her peers did not understand her background or what it meant to be Latino.
Asked whether he saw himself as American or Mexican, Mendieta told the students that “what is important is (their) character.”
One thing Mendieta said helped him adjust to challenges with identity was changing his perspective.
“I changed my perspective from being a ‘victim’ to a ‘victor,’” he said.
Students asked what Pablo and Mendieta believe will make the next generation of Hispanic Latinos great. Pablo said it is “the capacity (they) have to be better than this generation.”
Near the end of the day, Miriam Garcia, an accounting clerk at St. Charles Preparatory School, read students the letter “Dear Young, Hispanic/Latino Catholics…” by Stephanie Espinoza. The letter asks that the youth use their gifts and talents and be leaders in the Catholic faith.