Youth Genfest from Living City May 2012
Like many generations before us, we will go to the Genfest in Budapest this August with anticipation and excitement. Will you join us?
By Rosa Kim
“The energy in the stadium was so high that it quite literally could not be contained.” That is how Laura Kellerman from Abeline, Texas, described her experience at the last Genfest in 2000.
“There we were — 21,000 young people of diverse backgrounds, and all of us had chosen the same adventure: unity. I knew at that critical time of my life I was being called to live the Focolare spirituality of unity, not by my parents or the friends sitting on either side of me but personally by God.”
It has been over a decade since the last Genfest, which was part of World Youth Day in 2000. This year young people from all over the world will gather in Budapest, Hungary, from August 31 to September 2 in celebration of our spirituality of unity, our faith and each other. For many, it will be the first event of its kind.
So, what is the Genfest? It is a gathering of worldwide youth who are convinced that a united world is possible through living out the Gospel. The theme of the event is “Let’s bridge.” The program will be a celebration consisting of musical and artistic moments, personal witnesses and presentations showcasing a variety of current initiatives and social projects by Focolare youth. Various issues in the fields of economy, art, politics, interreligious dialogue and communications, among others, will be addressed as well as solutions and examples illustrating how to build bridges of fraternity in
Paul Hartmann from New York, who was part of the performance group from the U.S. for Genfest 1995, explained, “We practiced for four months to offer our five-minute performance for the world.” Waiting their turn to perform, he recalled how they huddled in to slap hands and repeated to each other, “You have all my unity.” This was to “let each other know the reason for being there: not to show off our talents but to share the artistic fruit of what our unity had formed. The Genfest is still one of the greatest experiences of my life.”
“Genfest 1990 was my transformation,” said Guadalupe Salas from San Antonio, Texas. “I remember people from all cultures hugging and some with tears in their eyes.” She remembered becoming filled with emotion, not from the excitement or the music but “seeing people of the world … I couldn’t help but fall in love again right then and there with the world and its people.”
Erika Croatto, from Houston, Texas, had a similar impression in seeing so many cultures clad in all kinds of traditional attire. She felt the certainty in her heart that a united world, a world without violence and conflicts, was indeed possible. “[Focolare founder] Chiara Lubich came and spoke to us, and I will never forget when she reminded us that we have only one life to live and that we must use it well! It was as though God had imprinted in my heart what he wanted to tell me through Chiara.”
Anne Masters of Chicago was a part of a group of youth from the U.S. working on a “Stomp”-like performance for Genfest 2000. They gathered for one intensive month of creating and practicing their performance before heading off to Rome for their Genfest. During that month, they practiced endlessly until the rhythms from the show became a part
“As compelling as our performance became, we all began to realize that we had all arrived in search of something deeper,” she remembers. As days turned into weeks, “our common experiences forged us into a new family; the beauty as well as power of the relationship growing between my new brothers and sisters and me allowed me to see my life back home in a new light, and we were ready for our pilgrimage to Rome.”
When they did indeed arrive in Rome, they were welcomed with the sticky, hot Italian summer air. Yet their discomfort quickly vanished as Pope John Paul II’s voice echoed through Saint Peter’s Square: “Dear friends who have traveled so many miles in so many ways to come to Rome, let me begin by asking you a question: What have you come in search of? Who have you come here to find?”
As she listened, Anne remembers feeling “free and emptied of all the distractions of life, close to God and my true self.” At the end of her pilgrimage, as she reflected back on her journey from Chicago to that moment, she realized that “Providence had arranged every experience in my life for this moment. I felt ready to go back and embrace any challenge because truly great things were in store for me.”
So, what are we in search of? Whom do we go to find? Like many generations before us, we will go to the Genfest this August with anticipation and excitement, with open and curious hearts for an experience of God with thousands of other like-minded young people from all over the world. Will you join us?
More info: www.genfest.org and contact a Focolare center (see p.29).
Genfest 2000. More than 21,000 young people attended that festival in Rome, during World Youth Day