By Jessica Able, Record Staff Writer
Middle and high school students from the four dioceses in Kentucky — Covington, Lexington, Owensboro and Louisville — gathered at Kentucky Kingdom Sept. 14 for a Catholic Youth Day, hosted by the Archdiocese of Louisville.
With the sounds of roller coasters taking test runs and the whirling water of the wave pool coming to life, 400 youth attended Mass beneath a large picnic shelter at the rear of the recently reopened theme park.
In the morning’s cool temperatures, teens huddled in sweatshirts at long picnic tables covered in red and white gingham table cloths. By the day’s end, many of these teens would trade their hoodies for swim suits and brave the cool water of the adjacent water park.
Carole Goodwin, director of youth and young adult ministry for the Archdiocese of Louisville, said planning for the Catholic Youth Day originated at a recent meeting of youth directors from across the Metropolitan Province of Louisville, which encompasses the four dioceses of Kentucky and three from Tennessee — Memphis, Nashville and Knoxville.
“Our hope is for this day to be fun and to begin that celebration by worshipping together,” Goodwin said.
Although teens from the three dioceses in Tennessee were not able to attend, Goodwin said she hopes they will be able to do so in the future.
Goodwin recalled that about six years ago an Archdiocesan Youth Day was hosted at Kentucky Kingdom prior to the park’s closing. She said she would like to see this new, regional gathering occur annually and hopes it might serve as a kickoff for fall events.
In his homily at the gathering, Father Michael Wimsatt, the new director of the Archdiocese of Louisville’s Vocation Office, recalled a study the Washington Post conducted seven years ago. The newspaper asked world-renowned concert violinist Joshua Bell to play his violin for rush-hour commuters in a crowded metro station in Washington, D.C.
During the 45 minutes he played more than 1,000 people passed by. Only seven people, one of whom was able to identify him, stopped to listen to him play, Father Wimsatt said. He said part of the tragedy in a situation such as this is a lack of recognition.
“Today we celebrate the Exaltation of the Holy Cross and the cross itself, too. Sometimes we struggle to recognize the true meaning of it,” he said.
Father Wimsatt said often we suffer with love. Love can have a crucifying quality and we do it willingly, he said, because it’s an expression of our love.
“Part of the beauty of the cross is that from the outside you would say that on Good Friday everything that could go wrong did go wrong,” he said. “But the beauty of life is even in the going wrong, grace wins out. The cross is a reminder of the victory of grace, not just in Jesus’ life but in our lives.”
Following Mass the teens took part in a mixer and ate lunch in the same picnic shelter where they had just attended Mass. Following lunch, they were free to spend the rest of the day in the theme park.