By TARA CONNOLLY Staff writer
“In a culture that constantly tells you to be special and be unique – we’re more afraid than ever to let our faith be seen. It is time to claim your faith as your own,” said Will Panagakos, youth speaker from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, Dec. 9 to more than 175 young faithful preparing to receive the sacrament of confirmation.
Panagakos, who presents his talks with the accompaniment of song and guitar, and Paul Kim, international youth speaker and beatboxer, were the keynote speakers at the confirmation rally, “Confirming Faithful Families,” at St. Joseph the Worker, Orefield.
The rallies for confirmation candidates throughout the Diocese are sponsored by the Diocesan Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry and retreat teams from the Diocesan Catholic high schools.
In his talk, Panagakos said that although he was raised Catholic, he experienced a conversion to the Catholic faith at a similar confirmation retreat when he was a high school sophomore.
“The faith was all around me when I was growing up. But I never owned up to it or made it my own,” he said.
Instead, Panagakos chose to party with older students and viewed confirmation as being freed from religious education classes.
“I remember being challenged at that retreat when the speaker asked us ‘Why are you here?’”
“There are going to be times when you will get tested. Are you really into this or are you just going through the motions,” asked Panagakos.
He said his faith was tested when his friends tried to convince him to camp out with his date after prom at a house where the parents weren’t home.
“Is that a good idea? No. Do we have to make hard decisions? Yes,” said Panagakos.
During the times when their faith is tested, he maintained that God will never leave them alone and is with them at all times.
“God promises to deliver you from difficulties. No other force in this world can offer you that. The Holy Spirit is what is needed to do God’s work, and God’s work is needed in today’s world,” said Panagakos.
“Understand how important the spirit is in this world. The world needs you. Each of you are unique. You affect people by the life you live because other people see it,” he said.
In addition, he told the youth that confirmation seals the gift of their baptism, and is not the “end’ but the “beginning.”
“On your confirmation day, you will have a flame burning inside your heart. The only thing that can put it out – is if you walk away and not care. God is calling you to do his work,” said Panagakos.
By doing God’s work, he said, God is also calling them to be saints in the workplace and in their family life.
“It’s time for you to go forth and pursue your faith. If you stumble, get back up. It’s time to invite the Holy Spirit because you are ready to live a Christian faith,” said Panagakos.
Along with the keynote talks, the rally featured Holy Hour and Adoration, writing letters to prisoners, a parent session and a music session.
Two more OYYAM confirmation rallies are planned for confirmation candidates: Saturday, Feb. 3 from noon to 4 p.m. at St. Thomas More, Allentown and Saturday, Feb. 24 from 1 to 5 p.m. at Notre Dame High School, Easton.
Another rally planned and sponsored by St. Ambrose, Schuylkill Haven will be Saturday, March 10 at the parish.
For more information or to register, click here .