If the truth be told, the 4,300 teens and their chaperones who came to the La Salette Shrine for either of the two weekends in July 2007 had great fun—while praying, sharing, listening and learning. Is it another La Salette miracle? Some would agree.
Danielle Walsh, 15, of St. Paul’s Parish in Blackstone, MA said: “Everyone here’s accepted; you can be yourself. There’s so many different people who all have one thing in common—God.” “I think it’s good that you become closer to God because he helps you with a lot of hard times. You get to hang out with your friends, but you also get to share your love of God,” said Dominic Dipersia, 15, of St. Stephen’s Parish in Worcester, MA (from an article by Tanya Connor, July 27, 2007, The Catholic Free Press, Diocese of Worcester, MA., used with permission).
Kim Lisbon, a full-time staff person on the Attleboro Shrine, is the new Steubenville East Coordinator and loves her job. About the weekends, she said: “For some, it will be the first time that they believe and experience that they are loved by God and created for a purpose. For others, it is a realization that the Church is alive and well and that they have a place in it. For all, including the chaperones and volunteers, it is often a life-changing experience and a chance to continue to grow in holiness and enjoy all things Catholic.”
Her job is to organize the entire event, with its over 300 adult volunteers. The theme, schedule and content—music, speakers, small-group sharing, etc.—are all arranged by Kim Lisbon with the help of Fr. Cyriac Mattathilanickal,
M.S. and Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio more than a year in advance. As Kim attests, “This is a year ’round job.”
Several other La Salettes help with these weekends. Bro. Bob Russell, M.S. hosts the “La Salette Tent” with vocation videos and materials, as well as giving away a La Salette wooden cross as a memento of their visit. Bro. Ray Tetreault, M.S. helps in selling the hundreds of tee shirts. Bro. Ron Taylor, M.S. also assists with the many volunteers, including food and snacks that are distributed in one of the sixteen tents on the property. In fact, the main assembly tent holds 2,600 people. Most Attleboro La Salettes participate in some way in these very “miraculous” weekends.
Beginning a New Tradition And, last but certainly not least, many of the La Salette priests join the other religious and secular priests from near and far in celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation for at least five hours each of the three days in a special large tent—sometimes thirty-five priests celebrating at one time.
Beyond the physical and organizational challenges is the importance of praying for good weather. Imagine if it was raining! This year they had perfect weather, thanks be to God.
According to Kim, there has been a running complaint, over these past eleven years; namely, that there is a need to provide a unique follow-up program to keep the kids in touch with each other and continue their journey with the Lord. Enter Peter Campbell, director of “Proud 2B Catholic” who recently partnered with the La Salette Missionaries of the Province of Mary, Mother of the Americas for the next two years to coordinate youth programs especially in the areas where the La Salettes minister. He suggested a new program that would be offered at the Attleboro National Shrine.
Together with Kim Lisbon and several adult volunteers, they developed Extreme East, a new monthly event for teens, youth ministers and all ages! This ongoing program is designed as a supplemental program to support parish youth ministry efforts, parish ministries, and as a follow-up to Proud 2B Catholic Music Festivals, Steubenville East or other events. Its purpose is to create excitement and fire for our Catholic faith.
It is held on the First Friday of every month (skipping July and August—Steubenville East and vacation). It is held from 7–10pm at the National Shrine. There is room for about 500 participants. Guest speakers and musicians for this monthly gathering will present various teachings, witnesses and discussions centered around living the Catholic faith in our daily life.