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Why Maine Catholics, unable to meet in person, aren’t sheepish about their faith

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Washington D.C., Apr 16, 2021 / 04:00 am America/Denver (CNA).

With the Maine Catholic Youth Meeting taking place virtually for the second year in a row, the Diocese of Portland is trying something new to engage young Catholics – a healthy dose of sheep puns.

“What we learned from last year was that we needed more opportunities for participants to interact more and not just watch,” Shawn Gregory, coordinator of youth ministry for the diocese, told CNA of the annual gathering of Catholic youth from around the state.

“This year we decided to go with a shorter and faster-paced gathering,” he said. This year’s event will occur on Good Shepherd Sunday and will be modeled after the popular game show “Jeopardy.”

“Because the event will be taking place on Good Shepherd Sunday, we had a lot of sheep puns going around, and that’s where we came up with the name ‘Shepherdy,’” Gregory said. “The theme of the event is One Shepherd, One Flock and the categories will focus on aspects of that.”

The Diocese of Portland is Maine’s only Catholic diocese, and its annual youth convention is an opportunity for young Catholics across the entire state to gather.

Last year, however, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the in-person gathering and the event was moved online. For the second year in row, the event will be online-only.

“The annual Youth Convention has been a wonderful opportunity for youth and their adult leaders to gather together as the Catholic Church of Maine, to celebrate, to learn and to pray together,” Gregory told CNA.

Bishop Robert Deeley of Portland is set to make an appearance at the 2021 gathering.

Deeley has already tried to connect with Maine’s young Catholics despite state restrictions on public Masses and other gatherings – by writing to them.

This past Lent, Gregory asked faith formation leaders and youth ministers for the addresses of their active and inactive members; Deeley sent more than 650 Lenten cards to each person.

“Bishop Deeley’s message was how the challenges of COVID could be likened to Christ’s 40 days in the desert in that Christ took time to pray, to prepare for his ministry and through the temptations of the devil Christ called upon God the Father,” Gregory told CNA.

“He [Bishop Deeley] made sure to let them know that they are always welcome in the Church and encouraged them to be active participants in their faith, always striving to deepen their relationship with Christ,” Gregory noted.

Gregory hopes that the 2021 youth convention will be the last one held virtually.

“We are all social beings but teenagers even more so,” he said, “It’s important to gather in community as Catholics in Maine to celebrate and share our faith. It will be an opportunity to reconnect with friends old and new as a faith community.”

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