SCRANTON – In a world where many people try to be copycats, every person is uniquely made in the image and likeness of God. That is what more than 200 young people heard as they filled the Diocesan Pastoral Center Oct. 7, 2023, to participate in a Diocesan Youth Rally.

Focusing on the theme of ‘Be an Original,’ the day-long event featured interactive workshops, Eucharistic Adoration, Mass with Bishop Bambera at the Cathedral of Saint Peter, and a keynote address from Steve Angrisano.

More than 200 young adults participated in the 2023 Diocesan Youth Rally, which was held at the Diocesan Pastoral Center in Scranton, on Saturday, Oct. 7, 2023.

“God is so near to us, so close. I can’t put it on a piece of paper, I can’t take it to a court of law, but it’s as real as real can be,” Angrisano told the crowd of young adults.

Angrisano is an internationally recognized Catholic composer, presenter, and passionate music missionary. He has been featured at 10 World Youth Days, emceed three National Catholic Youth Conferences, and served as emcee when Pope John Paul II visited Saint Louis in 1999.

“Our faith is not a superstition. Our God is real. God created this universe, and no one can tell you that is not true. No one. Anyone who says science can disprove God is lying to you,” he said.

Through an artful mix of music and storytelling, Angrisano described the worst day of his life, April 20, 1999, when a mass shooting at Columbine High School, which was next to his church at the time, took the lives of 14 people. He described the grief and pain of that day but also how God was with him and the community.

“I am standing with you here today because I am certain of that. God wins in the end,” he said.

The young adults, many of whom are preparing for Confirmation and used the Diocesan Youth Rally as their retreat, got to choose the workshops they wanted to attend.

The sessions ranged from a panel on vocations, a session of authentic Catholic friendship, and even how Catholic teachings and spirituality can offer support for a person’s mental well-being.

“It has been fun,” participant Anthony Salvi from Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish in Brodheadsville said. “In one of the workshops we were talking about why God created us and what was his reason and how much he loves us.”

Tanner Corkins of Saint Catherine of Siena Parish in Moscow thought the sessions were very insightful.

“I was really excited to take part in the rally to grow closer to God and really learn more about our faith and understand it on a deeper level,” Corkins said.

Many of the young people said the most meaningful part of the Diocesan Youth Rally was Eucharistic Adoration, which was led by Father Gerald Shantillo, Vicar General of the Diocese of Scranton and Moderator of the Curia.

“Just the peace that it brought me, I’ve never done it before, so it was very nice,” participant Gregory Nalesnik of Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish in Hawley said.

Organizers hope that the Diocesan Youth Rally gives the young people energy and excitement to be involved in their parish.

“More than anything, I hope that they take what they’ve learned and invest in their own faith,” Shannon Kowalski, Diocesan Director of Service and Mission, said. “We need our young people to step up and to get involved in ministries and take on different things in their parishes, to lead bible studies and youth groups.”

Gifts to the Diocesan Annual Appeal help to make events like the Diocesan Youth Rally possible.

“Everyone did an amazing job and I hope that next year we’ll bring our kids back again,” Ivet Bandirma from Queen of Peace Parish in Hawley said.