Youths find 'best version of themselves' at Come, Encounter Christ event

The Blessed Sacrament is carried in a monstrance in procession with music and incense through a darkened St. Lawrence Church in Utica during a special "Come, Encounter Christ" event for young people and families. Fr. William Promesso, pastor of St. Cyprian Parish in Riverview, shared his story of falling away, and then returning to Christ through the Mass. (Photos by James Silvestri | Special to Detroit Catholic)

'It makes me feel closer to Christ': Music, praise and adoration inspire teens and families at St. Lawrence

UTICA — A quiet prayer, a sunset, a smile … how do you encounter Christ?

This was the question posed by Fr. William Promesso to hundreds of youth and adults who attended the "Come, Encounter Christ!" event at St. Lawrence Parish in Utica on Oct. 21.

Fr. Promesso, who spoke at the archdiocesan-wide event, said his first encounter with Christ began at his baptism. He continued to encounter Christ throughout his childhood in many ways, including as a Catholic school student and as a member of his parish choir; however, his faith took a “break” as he grew older and went to college. 

“Like many young people, I seemed to fall away, and I encountered Christ less and less,” said Fr. Promesso, pastor at St. Cyprian Parish in Riverview.

Life continued with a career in business, and he found himself making excuses to not attend Mass. His encounters with Christ became almost non-existent, he recalled.

Young people raise their voices and hands in praise during the praise and worship session of "Come, Encounter Christ" at St. Lawrence Parish in Utica on Oct. 21.

“I was free to encounter Christ, but because we are free, I was free to avoid him, too,” he said. “I had many friends, a bright future and I was absolutely miserable. I couldn’t figure it out. My heart was empty.”

One Saturday evening, he decided to go to Mass at the church where he grew up. 

“I had forgotten how beautiful it was, as if I had never seen it before. I looked at it with new eyes,” he said.

He added that it was at this time that his life began to be filled with light and excitement, “and I realized what was wrong: I had willingly walked away,” said Fr. Promesso. “I was the sheep who had wandered away, but Christ had brought me back.”

Relationships with God will not be perfect, because “as with all relationships, it’s going to be flawed,” he added.

“They can be good and inspiring, and our relationship with the Lord is a little like that,” Fr. Promesso continued. “The Shepherd always looks for His sheep who are lost. We might wander, but we are still part of the flock.”

Fr. Promesso’s talk was followed by inspirational music, Eucharistic adoration and private confession, all of which Mary Griffin enjoyed and in which she took part.

Fr. William Promesso, pastor of St. Cyprian Parish in Riverview, shares his testimony with teens during "Come, Encounter Christ." 

Griffin, a sixth-grader at St. Lawrence Elementary School, said, “I wanted to come to the conference because I want to do anything and everything I can to strengthen my faith in God. I hope that God gives me inspiration to become the best version of myself.”

She said she and her parents practice their faith at home with daily prayer, as well as prayer before meals. Her parents, Brian and Jessica Griffin, were also at the event, both of whom said faith begins at home. 

“We pray together as much as possible,” Brian Griffin said.

Jessica Griffin said she tries to guide her 11-year-old daughter when it comes to her faith, and added, “I tell her that when she gets upset, to offer it up to God and let Him help her handle it.”

“Attending this is important to me and my family because we enjoy spending time together and there is nothing better than praising God and strengthening our faith together,” Jessica Griffin said.

Joseph Rogers, a sophomore at University of Detroit Jesuit High School, said he enjoyed the event, and found it uplifting, especially the music. He said Fr. Promesso’s talk made him think about how he encounters Christ in his own life, which is through prayer. 

“It makes me feel closer to Christ,” he said.

His younger brother, Anthony, agreed, and added, “I encounter Christ by reading the Bible.”

Auxiliary Bishop Robert Fisher, vicar for the archdiocese's Northeast Region, said the strength that God gives to live our faith is a gift for everyone. With faith, “we can make it through difficult times,” he said. Bishop Fisher also encouraged those at the event to write down ways they’ve encountered Christ and to reflect on it.

“Remember, God loves you all very much,” he said. “He created you.”