Approximately 2,500 students representing 35 Catholic elementary and high schools from across the archdiocese sang, prayed and worshiped together at a special outdoor Youth Rosary Rally at Cantwell Sacred Heart of Mary High School in Montebello to kick off the month of Mary on May 1. Holy Cross Family Ministries presented the half-day event, which featured live music, group prayer, a vibrant “living Rosary” and guests, including Los Angeles Archbishop José Gomez, hip-hop missionary Joe Melendrez, Justin Fatica from Hard as Nails Ministries, and Cantwell Sacred Heart student Jaime Linares, who shared personal testimony about the power of prayer.“This beautiful celebration is a moment to give thanks to God for all the blessings He gives us — [including] the gift of prayer,” said Archbishop Gomez. He explained that prayer is a powerful gift because it allows us to speak directly with God and to listen to Him as well.Archbishop Gomez described the rosary as a beautiful prayer that he prays daily, using rosary beads that once belonged to his late mother. He encouraged the students present to have their own rosary beads, carry them every day, and pray with them often.“When we pray the rosary, we are not just repeating prayers with our lips; what we are saying comes from our hearts,” he said. “As we are praying, our minds are contemplating the mysteries of Jesus’ life [and] we are having a conversation with our blessed mother, with St. Joseph and with Jesus, and that is what is extraordinary about praying the rosary.”During his musical presentation, Joe Melendrez shared similar thoughts about the power and beauty of the rosary. He electrified the crowd with his high-energy Christian hip-hop, including his unique “Rosary Rap,” which engaged the students with a blend of rapping, bouncing, dancing and “having fun for Jesus” — while at once praying various segments of the rosary, which he described as a “powerful prayer” that brings us closer to Mary.“Mary said one word that changed the course of history, one word that brought us to be gathered here today, and that word was yes,” he said. “If we can be people who say yes to God, things will change. If you say yes to Him, I promise He is going to take care of you.”Melendrez described “saying yes to Jesus” as a way of life that can be strengthened through daily prayer, just as regular exercise strengthens bodies.“You can pray at all times, in any place,” said Melendrez. “It’s time to stand up for Jesus.”For Jaime Linares, a junior at Cantwell Sacred Heart, saying “yes” to Jesus helped sustain her during a particularly turbulent year, which began when her mother separated from her alcoholic father, and Jaime, her little brother and mother ended up moving into her grandfather’s small, cramped home. During that year, family struggles with her father continued over divorce proceedings, child support and custody issues. And in the biggest blow of all, Jaime lost her hero — her beloved grandfather, who she described as her cheerleader and protector.“That year was rough. I felt vulnerable, scared, frustrated, confused, and I asked God, ‘Why is this happening to us?’… But I never lost my faith in God,” recounted Linares. “So I prayed, and I prayed, and I prayed some more. And over time I began to realize that these burdens that God had bestowed upon us were actually blessings.”The biggest blessing in disguise was moving in with her grandfather when Linares and her family had nowhere else to go. As a result, she had the chance to share priceless moments and create unforgettable memories with her grandfather before he passed away.“My message for everybody here is to never give up on God because He’s never going to give up on you,” concluded Linares. “You have to go through the storm to see the rainbow.”Madeline Garcia, Claudia Contreras and Katelyn Lazareno, eighth graders from St. Benedict School in Montebello, received the message loud and clear. For Garcia, the Rosary Rally further strengthened her resolve to keep praying every day.“Prayer is definitely an important part of my daily routine, because I’m always looking to God for the support we need, to guide us,” Garcia told The Tidings.Contreras was impressed by seeing so many young people singing and worshiping together.“I do feel there is power in numbers, and seeing how this event united all of these Catholic schools together is great,” she said. “God’s power is bringing everyone closer together.”Lazareno described the youth event as an uplifting experience that filled her with gratitude.“You can feel God here, with the singers and the speakers. You can tell that the Holy Spirit is working in them,” said Lazareno. “They really inspired me to pray the rosary more often, and to just thank God for everything we have.”Beth Mahoney, mission director for Holy Cross Family Ministries (HCFM), which presented the Youth Rosary Rally, described the energy and enthusiasm expressed by the 2,500 students as a positive representation of today’s youth in the Catholic Church. “When I looked at the youth today, at how they responded — the attitude in which they came together to celebrate…as a group of vibrant, young Catholics — it reminded me of how some people say, ‘Youth are the future,’ but no, they are the Church,” explained Mahoney. “Will they build a foundation for the Church in the future? Yes, definitely. But it’s so important for us to understand that the youth of today are already an active part of the Catholic Church.”{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2013/0510/youthrally/{/gallery}