Young church invited to March 17 Abbey Youth Fest

By Beth Donze

A full Saturday of faith-filled talks, live music, Mass and a fair of Catholic exhibitors will roll out on the grounds of St. Joseph Abbey and Seminary College March 17 at the 2018 Abbey Youth Festival.

“I can’t believe we have this lineup. It’s going to be such a powerhouse,” said Christine Baglow, festival director, noting that the annual event targeting ages 13 to 18 will offer a first-time series of breakout sessions designed to give teenage girls, boys and their adult leaders relevant information on their respective faith journeys. “For young women and young men, there is such a specific way they experience the faith – you have to have that time,” Baglow said.

Because this year’s festival will fall on St. Patrick’s Day, organizers have designed programming around the theme “Arise!” – a reference to the prayer on St. Patrick’s breastplate: “I arise today through a mighty strength, through the invocation of the Trinity, through the belief in the Three-ness, through concession of the Oneness, of the Creator of creation.”

“As a community, the seminarians have been praying it weekly and we, as a (festival) team, have been praying it daily,” Baglow said. “It’s a powerful prayer.”

Daughter of St. Paul Sister Tracey Dugas paints the face of a participant at the 2015 Abbey Youth Festival, an annual gathering of young Catholics on the Covington campus of St. Joseph Abbey and Seminary College. This year’s festival, set for March 17, will be inspired by the theme “Arise!” – a verb taken from St. Patrick’s breastplate.
The annual Abbey Youth Festival has the atmosphere of an outdoor fair and concert tailored to young Catholics’ spiritual growth.

The following includes scheduling highlights of Abbey Youth Festival:

➤ On-site registration and check-in for pre-registered participants opens at 8 a.m. in the Registration Barn, with festival icebreakers beginning at 9:30 a.m.

➤ The opening keynote – entitled “Arise!” – will be delivered by Father Brad Doyle, a priest from the Diocese of Baton Rouge, at 10:20 a.m.

Eucharistic miracles displayed

➤ During lunch and throughout the day, participants will be treated to live concerts and a fair of Catholic vendors and exhibitors. A former sawmill in an adjacent field, retrofitted as the St. John Paul II Chapel, will offer the sacrament of reconciliation and eucharistic adoration, and a nearby tent will host an exhibit of photographs and text related to 40 eucharistic miracles.

The first-time display will offer a peek into the life’s work of Servant of God Carlo Acutis, who traveled the world to research miracles connected with the Blessed Sacrament before his death in 2006 at age 15. As always, festival attendees will be offered free tours of St. Joseph Abbey Church. (Male participants may pre-register online for tours of the seminary college.)

➤ From noon to 12:45 p.m., Dr. Chris Baglow, a professor of theology at Notre Dame Seminary and the founder of Abbey Youth Festival, will lead the optional breakout session “Eyes on the Cosmos: What Does the Catholic Church Really Say About Faith and Science?”

➤ From 1 to 2:15 p.m., attendees will participate in one mandatory breakout session chosen from three offerings: Teenage girls will remain on the main field to hear the talk “Daughter, Arise,” with Emily Wilson and Andrea Thomas; teenage boys will go to an adjacent field to hear “Why Being a Virtuous Man is Better Than Being a Jerk!” with Austin Ashcraft, Joe Bass, Father Brad Doyle and John Finch; and adults will attend “Ministry in the Modern Age,” with panelists Dr. Tom Neal, director of lay formation programs and a professor of theology at Notre Dame Seminary; Father Bryce Sibley, a priest of the Diocese of Lafayette and pastor/chaplain of Our Lady of Wisdom Church and Catholic Student Center at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette; and Catholic musicians Greg & Lizzy.

➤ Two additional optional breakout sessions will be offered from 2:45 to 3:15 p.m.: Teens will explore “#How IPray” with St. Scholastica senior Margaret Baglow, St. Paul’s senior Cameron Vidal and Our Lady of the Lake youth ministry director Austin Ashcraft; adults will be offered “Spirituality of the Laity: What Are You Building?” with Neal, a 25-year veteran of parish- and diocese-based adult faith formation and a catechist at his home parish of St. Clement of Rome in Metairie.

➤ The Vigil Mass for the Fifth Sunday of Lent will begin at 3:45 p.m. with Archbishop Gregory Aymond, principal celebrant. Father Colm Cahill, parochial vicar of St. Peter Church in Covington, will be the homilist.

➤ After dinner, an evening concert and evening prayer with St. Joseph Seminary College’s Schola Cantorum, Father Sibley will deliver the festival’s final keynote, “Toward the Top,” at 7 p.m. An hour of candlelight adoration will follow, and the field will close at 9:30 p.m.

Numerous Catholic exhibits and vendors will be available throughout the day at the March 17 Abbey Youth Festival. This year’s fest will include a first-time exhibit exploring 40 eucharistic miracles from around the world.

Although attendance has averaged 3,500 since Abbey Youth Festival’s 2001 debut, inclement weather has marred it in recent years: extensive flooding of campus grounds in 2016 resulted in a cancellation, and last year’s heavy rains sent attendees onto the main seminary campus, where the event was successfully completed.

“We really pushed through (last year),” Baglow said. “When you miss a year, it’s always difficult to bring people back. This year we’re hoping for 3,000.”

Online pre-registration is open. The $40 per person registration fee plus incidental costs may be paid by credit card or check before March 9. All pre-paid participants receive an official AYF 2018 T-shirt. On-site registrations and pre-registrations not completed and paid in full by March 9 will be $50 per person and will not include a T-shirt.

To register, read the weekly AYF blog, and view a promotional video on the 2018 festival, visit

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