Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki poses for a selfie with about 400 teens on hand for the Hispanic Youth Encuentro on Saturday, Oct. 14. (Submitted photo)

In a world often characterized by divisiveness and disconnection, it’s heartening to witness moments of unity and inspiration that remind us of the power of community. One such moment recently unfolded as 400 teenagers gathered at St. Patrick Parish in Racine for a remarkable encounter with Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki, sponsored by the Archdiocese of Milwaukee Hispanic Ministry on Saturday, Oct. 14. The event not only showcased the strength of faith but also emphasized the importance of fostering connections among the youth.

The Hispanic Youth Encuentro, held in Cristo Rey Hall, was a testament to the enduring influence of religious leaders in our communities. The hard work of youth ministers, pastors, and volunteers. The archbishop’s willingness to engage with young people sends a powerful message: that their voices matter and their presence is valued in the Church.

One of the most striking aspects of this event was the sheer number of teenagers in attendance. In an era where technology often isolates individuals, seeing so many young faces come together for a common purpose was heartwarming. It served as a reminder that, despite the challenges faced by today’s youth, they are eager to engage with their faith and one another and we need to do the most to ensure we have programs that allow them to explore and grow in their faith.

The encounter provided an opportunity for teens to not only connect with their leaders but also gave them a chance to explore other areas of their faith with breakout sessions that included options for:

Service: We created 60 blessing bags for the Homeless Assistance Leadership Organization (HALO) Inc., Racine. Teens brought in all the items, including hygiene products and toiletries. They wrote inspiring notes and packed the bags.

Explore their Artistic Side: Some choose to give their talent a shot with arts and crafts.

Open Mic: For those who wished to show off their talents, many stayed in the hall for an open jam session where students who played an instrument could showcase their talent. Some showed us their dance moves.

There was something for everyone, and it was through these types of interactions that lasting friendships are formed, and a sense of belonging is nurtured. This gathering was not just about listening to our dynamic speaker, Paul J. Kim, but also about building a supportive community where teens can share the doubts, joys and hopes they may encounter in society.

The event demonstrated the willingness of the archbishop to engage with the concerns and questions of the youth. The Q&A session allowed the teens to ask challenging questions about faith, life and their place in the world. It’s through these conversations that young people can gain a deeper understanding of their faith and find guidance in navigating the complexities of the modern world.

The impact of such encounters cannot be overstated. For these 400 teens, meeting with their archbishop was not just a one-time event; it was an experience that will shape their spiritual journeys for years to come. The seeds of inspiration planted during this gathering will continue to grow as these young individuals become active members of their faith communities.

In a world filled with distractions and uncertainties, this gathering of 400 teens with their archbishop serves as a beacon of hope. It reminds us that unity, faith and community are still alive and thriving, even in the digital age. It’s a testament to the enduring power of faith and the importance of nurturing connections among the youth.

As we reflect on this remarkable encounter, let us celebrate the dedication of these 400 teenagers, their archbishop and all those who work tirelessly to create spaces for meaningful encounters. In a world where division can often overshadow unity, these gatherings remind us that we are at our best when we come together, share our beliefs and support one another on our spiritual journeys.

Eloy Contreras is the youth minister for the Catholic Community of Northern Racine.