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Teens plant trees on parish grounds around the diocese during C3 youth event

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In recent days, people have flocked to parks, patios and mountain trails with a renewed appreciation for the fresh air of the great outdoors. A recent youth ministry event facilitated that for diocesan Catholic teens. Parish youth groups took to their church grounds during “C3: Christ, Creation, Community” Oct. 25. 

Members of the youth group at St. Bernadette Church in Springfield, Sarai Aguilar-Rivas (left), Noah Abalahin and Evan Jarosiewicz, plant a tree during “C3: Christ, Creation, Community” Oct. 25. ZOEY MARAIST  |  CATHOLIC HERALD

v 106 c3For years, high schoolers have gathered at the annual RALLY, a daylong gathering with Mass, confession, games, music and food for hundreds. But the diocesan Office of Youth, Campus and Young Adult Ministries decided RALLY would be impossible to hold with COVID-19 restrictions. So, they pivoted to a parish-based, virtual and in-person event commemorating the fifth anniversary of Pope Francis’ environmental encyclical, “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home.”

The afternoon began with a videoconferencing call with the 20 participating parish youth groups. The teens played bingo and prayed the Divine Mercy Chaplet with seminarians Daniel Reuwer and Daniel Rice. They heard from speakers such as Franciscan Father Agustino Torres and Bishop Michael F. Burbidge, who encouraged the teens to see God in nature and to realize their impact on the earth.

“The beauty of creation is a sign of God’s presence in our lives. But it's still so easy to go through a day and not even take a moment to stand still and see the order of creation,” said Bishop Burbidge. “In Northern Virginia, we don’t always see how our lifestyle can damage the earth, (can) impact the air and the water quality. When we don’t care for the earth, we especially can hurt the poor and marginalized.”

After the online portion, the youths had small group discussions, played games and did service projects. Teens at St. Bernadette Church in Springfield competed to push a volleyball up a hill with leaf blowers. They helped clear the parish grounds of leaves, made reusable bags out of old T-shirts and planted a tree. 

Max Morris, 16, and Lilia Miravite, 14, were glad to get out of the house and spend time with their friends outdoors, even on a chilly, overcast day. The event reminded them of the ways being in nature has brought them closer to God. “I love going on walks and praying a rosary. I love hiking,” said Morris. “(It) helps me connect, helps me pray.”

“Everything in nature is created by God and we should admire it and take time to care for it because technically speaking it's not our earth, but we still have the right to take care of it,” said Miravite. “There’s so many beautiful things in nature (and) that just shows you how much God can do.”

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2020