MIDVALE — About 200 teens in grades 7 to 12 were welcomed by the diocesan Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry on May 3 to celebrate “The Joy of Easter! An Evening of Praise and Adoration.”
The teens, who came from all over the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City, gathered at St. Therese of the Child Jesus Parish’s social hall for the event. Fr. Joshua M. Santos, administrator of St. Ambrose Parish, was the speaker.
Fr. Santos, who has been a priest for almost 11 years and has served youth for more than 25 years, spoke about the joy of being Catholic and some simple ways of being a joyful follower of Christ.
“The message of Easter joy for each and every one of us is the same,” Fr. Santos told the youth. “Even if in your mind you have sinned, even if in your life you have sinned, ... in the eyes of God, your value is exactly the same: You are still worth the blood of the Son of God.” Fr. Santos included personal stories in his narrative, making his talk more approachable and relatable for the youth.
When Fr. Santos was serving in California a few years ago, he didn’t know how to speak Spanish, he said, but a Hispanic family asked him to baptize their child.
Fr. Santos, a native of the Philippines whose first language is Filipino, had to practice the baptismal rite in Spanish, as the family requested.
After conducting the rite in Spanish, Fr. Santos was in the sacristy and the child’s mother approached him and asked him to bless her.
“I did it in English, and after I blessed her I saw her crying, and asked her why,” said Fr. Santos, who was amazed by the lady’s response, which was, “Father, isn’t it so beautiful to be a Catholic? ... I am so proud to be a Catholic.”
“When I heard that, I was just so happy and so amazed,” Fr. Santos said.
In some other religions, the blood of animals is offered to praise their god, but “in the Catholic Church, in our faith, it is not our blood, it is not anyone’s blood – it is the blood of the Son of God” that the priest offers during Mass, Fr. Santos said.
Also according to Catholic tradition, God keeps searching for those who are lost, to offer them salvation.
“This God who searches for you, who sacrifices for you, who forgives you. ... In his eyes you are always valuable and precious,” Fr. Santos said.
Throughout his talk, Fr. Santos reinforced the message of Christian joy.
“The Christian pride is that you are loved, that your value never changes even if you have committed a sin. ... God’s love for us is unconditional,” he said.
The music, praise and adoration at the event was presented by Youth for Christ, a Couples for Christ Ministry from Los Angeles.
The Youth’s Evening of Praise & Worship was another opportunity for the youth to be evangelized, which Fr. Santos considers very important because “the youth are not only the future of the Church, but they are the present. ... Without them, there will be no future for our church,” he said.
Throughout the Lenten season, Junuee Castro, director of the Youth and Young Adult Ministry of the Diocese of Salt Lake City, encouraged the teens to participate in the CRS Rice Bowl; their donations were collected at the May 3 event.
“For the evening the teens brought the Rice Bowl contributions, a total of $952.62,” Castro said.