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Young people encounter Christ

Helping young people experience a deeper connection with Jesus through prayer before the Eucharist.

That was the goal of "Encounter," an archdiocesan program offered recently as regional gatherings at several parishes. It included music, talks, eucharistic exposition and adoration, as well as experiential, personal prayer.

And it had an impact.

"It was really deep and powerful being a part of it with all my friends," said Paige Tomjack, a junior at St. Mary High School and member of St. Patrick Parish, both in O’Neill, where she was among 135 youths attending an Oct. 26 gathering.

Open to all seventh- through 12th-graders, the program also drew more than 300 young people to St. Bonaventure Parish in Columbus Oct. 19, and about 45 to St. Michael Parish in Central City Nov. 9, said Jen Moser, coordinator of youth ministry in the archdiocesan Office of Evangelization and Catechesis, the program’s sponsor.

Another program is planned for March 22 at Holy Trinity Parish in Hartington.

"The program provided an opportunity that a lot of the young people may not have on a regular basis, to experience personal prayer and to learn to pray in a new way, connecting it with their own personal encounter of Jesus with him present in the Eucharist," Moser said.

Priests giving talks and leading prayer included Father Matthew Capadano, chaplain and teacher at Scotus Central Catholic High School in Columbus, at the Columbus program; Father Andrew Roza, archdiocesan director of vocations and associate pastor of the St. John Paul II Newman Center in Omaha, at the O’Neill session; and Father Marcus Knecht, associate pastor of St. Patrick Parish in O’Neill and associate pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Amelia, at the Central City session.

Tomjack said it was enlightening.

"Father Roza gave a talk on personal prayer and how it should be incorporated into our daily lives," she said. "He put a pretty positive spin on it and explained how it can make us feel happier."

The program also featured the worship and praise music of Danny Leger, Omaha songwriter and recording artist who performs at numerous events around the archdiocese and internationally.

In Central City, the program also featured the personal testimony of University of Nebraska-Lincoln student Joel Scott, a member of St. Anthony Parish in Cedar Rapids, Moser said.

"Through Encounter, we’re trying to meet kids where they’re at and help them begin a conversation with God and carry that through by relating to him on a deeper level," she said.

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