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METHUEN — About 1,500 Catholics from all over New England and beyond danced, sang and worshipped at the fourth annual Proud 2B Catholic Music Festival titled “Choose 2Believe.”
On Aug. 14 cars from Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Maine, New York, Rhode Island and Maryland filled the parking lot and lined the driveway of the St. Basil Salvatorian Center in Methuen. Concert-goers stood around their lawn chairs and blankets in front of the stage while dancing, shouting, and clapping along with the music. The weather cooperated as the sun peaked out between rainstorms.
The family-friendly festival began with music, reconciliation and adoration at 1:30 p.m. Both reconciliation and adoration ended before the 5 p.m. Mass on the concert stage. Catholic Musicians performed throughout the day including Sean Forrest, Bob Rice & Backyard Galaxy, Janelle, Scarecrow & Tinmen, Bernie Choiniere, Martin Doman, Crispin, Monica Ursino, Aaron Thompson, Brianna, Trevor Thomson and Crossed Hearts. The concert, aimed to attract youth, ended at 10 p.m.
"It's so exciting, all this wonderful stuff out here for kids," said Marge Griffin a youth minister from South-bury, Conn. Griffin is always in search of appropriate events for youth and will take news of the event back to Connecticut with her, she said.
Justin Braga, a chaperone for the Immaculate Conception Life Teen in Stoughton, attended the event two years ago and says the concert has grown.
"It's gotten a lot bigger," he said. "It shows just how great this concert is."
Father Jonathan Gaspar of Immaculate Conception Parish in Marlborough came to the festival with a bus full of young adults from neighboring St. Ann Parish, which will close in three weeks. Father Gasper hopes that by attending events like this one, he can welcome them to their new parish. “They have a home at Immaculate,” he said.
Each year the concert also draws many families. “It was very exhilarating,” said Amanda Persichetti, 15, who attended with her father and a friend. “It’s something for kids and adults. It’s very interactive.”
Justine Duford of Salem, N.H. came with her two teenage daughters but wished she had brought her two youngest and her husband, she said. Before the concert she had not realized that the children would be able to run around and play. “They wouldn’t be bored,” she said. “It’s even better than I thought it was going to be.”
Matt Stavro of Wilmington who brought his wife and two children would like to see more family events like the music festival.
"I'd like to see more activities like this in the archdiocese, where Catholic families can come together and have that sense of community," said Stavro.
Lisa Rogers, 16, has been to many Christian concerts but said “Proud 2B Catholic” brings together the Catholic family. “These are like my brothers and sisters right here,” she said. Rogers, from Litchfield, N.H., has been a staff member at the last two festivals.
Tim O’Leary was involved with the foundation of the music festival, volunteered the first two years and attended the others. “I think it’s an absolutely extraordinary outpouring of God’s power and love,” he said. O’Leary said he especially liked the Mass. “It was a beautiful experience of God’s presence,” he said. A rainbow appeared during the Mass and made it look like God was smiling, he said.
The concert’s founder and coordinator, Peter Campbell, was glad the weather cooperated.
"It was probably our best event out of the four years," he said. "Everything really worked out perfect."
The only small difficulty was a noise complaint from neighbors, which may mean the venue will change next year. Campbell is waiting to hear from the city of Methuen. “If they say no, we do have a back-up location,” he said.
The concert was held in Salem for the last three years, but was moved to Methuen this year. The new venue made it possible to charge admission, something Campbell says he would not do if he could pay for the concert any other way. Even with sponsorship, the festival has finished in the red all of the last three years, he said.
Campbell created his company, Campbell Concerts, before World Youth Day in 2000. He worked in youth ministry at the Immaculate Conception Church in Salem for four years and wanted to find a fun way to reach out to young Catholics.
Campbell Concerts is currently planning the second-annual Saint Fest, the next Proud 2B Catholic Music Festival and other Proud 2B Catholic Music Festivals across the country. Next spring, there will be a concert in Lancaster, Penn.
"We're looking to expand the events across the country," said Campbell.