As he looked around the Cathedral of Saint Peter and saw hundreds of other young adults, Jonathan Mengoni, 22, was glad he decided to attend his first #LeaveaMark Mass in the Diocese of Scranton.
“It’s very nice seeing all the young people in the Diocese come together and worship together because I feel in the Catholic Church a lot of young people are leaving,” Mengoni said.
Mengoni, a parishioner of Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Peckville, is part of a parish that has seen a lot of growth in recent years.
“We’ve had over 300 families join in just the last year and a-half to two years, we have a lot of kids coming to church. We have 210 kids, grades 1-8, in our faith formation classes now so there is an interest!” Mengoni said.
Mengoni said he recognized some of the people at the #LeaveaMark Mass but was excited to meet new friends.
“I’m running into a few friends here and there but there’s a lot of unfamiliar faces too with these Masses and retreats, I get to know more and more people throughout the Diocese,” he added.
The Diocese of Scranton’s fourth annual #LeaveaMark Mass was held on Sunday, November 3, 2019. The event brings together young adults, including public and Catholic high school students, college students, women and men religious, priests and youth ministers from throughout the 11 counties of the Diocese.
“It’s a fantastic experience getting to see everyone! You really get a sense of how alive the young Church is in our Diocese and it’s just a great experience to see everyone and is a lot of fun,” Tyler Osipower, 17, a parishioner of Saint Therese Parish in Shavertown said.
Osipower served as one of the lectors at the Mass. He has enjoyed getting involved in his parish and Diocese.
“I’m very involved with retreats throughout the Diocese but I’m also meeting a lot of new people. I’m seeing a lot of people that I’ve met before here, a lot of my friends, but am getting a chance to meet a lot of new people as well,” Osipower said.
The first #LeaveaMark Mass was initially inspired by Pope Francis’ words at World Youth Day 2016 in Krakow, Poland. The Holy Father said, “Dear young people, we didn’t come into this world to ‘vegetate,’ to take it easy, to make our lives a comfortable sofa to fall asleep on. No, we came for another reason: to leave a mark. It is very sad to pass through life without leaving a mark!”
The event has now become a popular tradition in the Diocese and some people travel quite a distance to attend the #LeaveaMark Mass.
Becky Goonan, Assistant Director of Religious Education & Youth Ministry at Saint Ann Parish in Williamsport, helped lead a group of eight students and chaperones nearly two hours to the Mass.
“It’s great for them to see and come and be excited for Church!” Goonan said.
This year’s #LeaveaMark Mass was the second Goonan has attended. She participated herself by signing in the choir.
“I like that it’s a Mass. Especially being a youth minister, that my students can come to and feel like it’s for them!” she added.
Goonan, 31, loves seeing so many young adults involved in their faith.
“The one thing that we always heard is they’re the Church of the future, but now they’re the young Church, they’re the Church now and they’re being called to leave a mark now. I think that message is really important for them to hear,” Goonan added.
Bishop Joseph C. Bambera was the principal celebrant of the #LeaveaMark Mass.
During his welcome, the bishop told the young people, “God is indeed here in our midst and God beckons every one of us to leave a mark for goodness in the world, to embrace the invitation given to us at our baptism, to live as his daughters and his sons and to indeed infect the world with the power, the presence, the love and the mercy of God.”
Father Ryan Glenn, Assistant Pastor at Saint John Neumann Parish in South Scranton and Assistant Vocation Director for the Diocese, delivered the homily.
“The good news today is that God will always love us as we are, broken and fractured, disjointed, with our gifts and talents, with our failures, God will always love us,” Father Glenn said.
Father Glenn was ordained to the Priesthood in June 2018. Since his ordination, he has been very involved in vocation, youth and young adult ministry. He encouraged the young adults in the crowd to have an intimate relationship with Jesus.
“Pray. Pray in the morning. Pray in the evening. Pray when you’re on the commute to school or work. Pray with the scriptures. Journal if you like. Go to Eucharistic adoration or daily Mass but whatever you do, deepen that relationship with Jesus. See yourself as Jesus sees you,” Father Glenn said.
Father Glenn also encouraged the young adults at the #LeaveaMark Mass to look at the examples of young Saints that have gone before us.
“Today, let us be emboldened to go back to our parishes and to our schools and to our universities. Let us jump right in to minister and serve wherever we are today. Let us challenge our professors and pastors, teachers and youth ministers, to listen to us, to get to know us, to know our needs, our struggles and our hopes,” Father Glenn added.
Father Glenn ended his homily by encouraging the young adults to support each other and to see goodness inside each other.
“My friends, this is our time, today is our day, today is a time for us to make bold choices and heroic decisions, today is our time to respond in love to this invitation that has been given to us through Jesus,” Father Glenn said.
Following Mass, a reception was held in the Diocesan Pastoral Center.
“Tonight is a great celebration of faith and action that affirms the readiness of young people to leave a mark here in our diocese,” Shannon Kowalski, Coordinator for Youth/Young Adult Ministry in the Diocese of Scranton said.
“The energy and enthusiasm of all who attended was joy-filled and promising for the future of our Diocese,” Father Don Williams, Diocesan Director of Vocations and Seminarians, said. “We wanted to kickoff National Vocation Awareness Week with this event once again this year as we encourage the young church to live as intentional and missionary disciples in our world today.”
During the reception, young adults could enjoy food and fellowship, play games, get information about various Diocesan programs and events and even take photos with Bishop Bambera in the #LeaveaMark photo area.
On one of the walls in the Diocesan Pastoral Center, students could write notes indicating how they plan to #LeaveaMark going forward.
“Volunteering at soup kitchen,” “continuing to be the best person I can and share the light of Christ with others,” and “live in the likeness of God” were just three of the notes taped to the wall.
Three ways, of many, that students can listen to the Lord, act upon His word and #LeaveaMark for good in our world!