PITTSFORD -- From gentle smiles on the faces of young adult Mass-goers as they exchanged the sign of peace, to the Gospel reading of the beatitudes that included "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God," to the silent candlelight procession that followed Mass, a strong sense of peace infused a liturgy held July 27 at the Sisters of St. Joseph Motherhouse.
It was the kind of peace that is badly needed in today's world, celebrant Bishop Salvatore R. Matano observed.
Dedicating the Mass for the cause of peace, Bishop Matano emphasized that young Catholics must continue to seek peaceful solutions in a world fraught with violence and terror -- "a world in which the litany of horrific acts multiplies each day," he said during his homily.
The Mass took place on the opening night of World Youth Day activities in the Diocese of Rochester that ran through July 31. Local events were coordinated to mirror World Youth Day celebrations in Krakow, Poland, where Pope Francis presided.
Preceding the evening Mass in Pittsford was a gathering for young adults at St. Bernard’s School of Theology and Ministry. Highlights there included presentations by Fathers Peter Mottola and David Tedesche, two young-adult priests in the Diocese of Rochester; a Polish dinner provided by members of Rochester's St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish; and a lecture on St. Faustina Kowalska presented by Magdalena Wnuk, a St. Stanislaus parishioner.
Beginning around 8 p.m., several dozen of the approximately 80 young adults in attendance walked a short distance down French Road to the motherhouse for Mass with Bishop Matano, who was flanked by several young-adult priests, deacons and seminarians on the walk there and also during the liturgy. Immediately after Mass, participants carried lit candles in a eucharistic procession back to St. Bernard's where the evening's five hours of activities ended with adoration, Benediction and dessert.
Two of that night's attendees, Andrew Fink and Chelsea Barnard, gave thumbs up to the proceedings.
"It was very well-organized; good people were leading the workshops," said Fink, 32, who attends Our Lady of Mercy Parish in Genesee County (Diocese of Buffalo). He added that he was drawn to the July 27 event by the availability of Polish food and having never before seen Bishop Matano celebrate Mass. Meanwhile, Barnard, 26 -- who is due to marry Fink on Aug. 6 -- said she learned of the gathering through her association with Rochester's Blessed Sacrament Parish, which has an active young-adult community.
Following the Wednesday-night activities, several more World Youth Day events were held around the diocese to close out the week They included:
* July 28 -- A celebration for students in grades 6 through 12 at St. Jude Church in Gates with Mass celebrated by Bishop Matano, a eucharistic procession and a Polish festival with dinner and games.
* July 29 -- Stations of the Cross at the Sisters of St. Joseph Motherhouse, St. Jude Church and Notre Dame Retreat House in Canandaigua, as well as St. Charles Borromeo Church in Elmira Heights featuring a Living Stations performance by youths from Blessed Trinity/St. Patrick parishes in Tioga County.
* July 30 -- A Polish cultural celebration at St. Benedict Church in Odessa, Schuyler County, highlighted by a Divine Mercy experience, Mass and a Polish dinner.
* July 31 -- A Polish event at St. Stanislaus in Rochester with Masses in English and Polish; tours of the church and Polish art; Polish food served; veneration of a first-class relic of St. John Paul II; adoration; and Divine Mercy Chaplet.
St. John Paul II instituted World Youth Day in 1985 and it is celebrated every three years in various parts of the world. World Youth Day 2016 saw Rochester diocesan officials coordinate extensive local initiatives for the first time, saying they wished to enhance connections with the larger community while providing catechesis, cultural awareness and a pilgrimage experience.
Linda Mehlenbacher, diocesan coordinator of youth and young-adult ministry, reported that sign-ups were plentiful for all events that week.
"We're really pleased," she said.