Area students, from ninth graders to college freshman, flocked to Holy Family Catholic Church in east Cobb off Lower Roswell Road to participate in a small event tied to the enormous Catholic Church’s World Youth Day rally in Brazil.
This is the first year the church has held a tie-in to the international event, said John Huynh, director of youth ministries for the Archdiocese of Atlanta.
“To be united with those praying thousands of miles away will be a faith-filled, powerful experience for our teens, reminding us we are truly one, universal church,” Huynh said.
The Archdiocese of Atlanta sent about 50 people from three different groups to Brazil for World Youth Day, including high schoolers, college students and young professionals.
On Monday, Pope Francis arrived in Rio de Janeiro where he has given constant speeches imploring Catholics to get out of their comfort zone and to literally go into the slums in order to help the poor.
Huynh said the newly elected Pope is a hands-on, positive example whom young people can relate to.
Andrew Norton, 18, of Douglasville, said Pope Francis is awesome in his rebellion, even refusing to travel in the protective popemobile.
Norton said young Catholics must “follow what he tells us to do.”
The next generation of young adults is more aware of social issues and have information on service projects and charity work at their fingertips, Huynh said.
Carla Heinsch, a youth minister at St. Catherine of Siena Catholic Church in Kennesaw, said she hopes this knowledge pushes teenagers to realize material possessions are not important; it is a connection to the community that is lasting.
“The purpose is not to gain wealth but to use resources to help others,” Heinsch said.
Heinsch said it is a sign of Jesus’ “radical love” that World Youth Day is in Rio de Janeiro, where the Christ the Redeemer statue stands at the peak of a mountain overlooking the city.
The monument of Jesus with arms spread wide open reminds Catholics to have an open heart, Heinsch said.
A year ago, Heinsch returned from doing missionary work in Jamaica and India. She said traveling to a place where people have a real need for food and shelter is humbling.
Heinsch said being in the missionary field took her away from family and home, and it was a challenge to go without simple comforts like a hot shower.
“But the joys and the grace of it are so much bigger,” she said.
When exhausted by work or feeling like an outsider while overseas, Heinsch said she relied on the Eucharistic Adoration, or Holy Communion, to connect her to fellow Catholics.
The devotion of faith unites followers in a way that transcends languages and geographic locations.
That same connection tied Georgia teens with the youth around the world, as the Eucharistic Adoration at Holy Family Catholic Church was timed with the Eucharistic Adoration at the World Youth Day in Brazil.