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FRAMINGHAM — Picture an outdoor rock concert: throngs of teens crowding the stage, shaking their arms, bouncing to the beat, screaming the verses of their favorite songs. Now, add a tent for eucharistic adoration and a steady line of penitents entering another tent for the opportunity to receive the Sacrament of Penance.
This was the scene at the Proud 2B Catholic Music Festival on July 30.
For one afternoon, the Marist House in Framingham was transformed into a haven for Catholic youth.
Over 1,700 people, most of them in their teens, attended the festival. Some traveled from as far away as Maine, Rhode Island and Connecticut. The youths came alone, or with their parents. Several parish groups, all wearing identical T-shirts, attended the event together.
Most of the young people, whether part of a group or not, wore shirts bearing slogans relating their Catholic faith to their generation. “Mary is my homegirl,” read one shirt. “All life is precious,” read another.
At the center of it all, a huge stage with several dozen speakers on either side showcased Catholic musicians such as Martin Doman and the band Crispin. The stage was one of two set up for the event; the other was inside the “Electric Cafe,” an indoor auditorium where entertainers such as Sarah Bauer and Cross Pollen performed.
Off to one side of the outdoor stage, a large games area — complete with moon bounces, dunk tanks and temporary tattooing — was juxtaposed by an area for individual confessions and a tent for adoration of the Eucharist, with several seats set up for prayer and contemplation outside.
In the huge vendor tent, tables offering information on vocations and chastity far outnumbered those for food and drink.
Speakers such as Tom Brady Sr., father of the Patriots star quarterback, and Matt Smith, National Spokesperson for Life Teen, also urged young people to remain faithful to their baptismal promises.
In the late afternoon, the music and festivities came to a stop while Archbishop Seán P. O’Malley celebrated Mass.
“This is a great event for the youth,” commented Father Daniel Hennessey, vocations director for the Archdiocese of Boston who was at the festival distributing information about the priesthood. “Not only for them to be able to say, ‘Yes, we are Proud 2B Catholic,’ but also to think about what it means to be ‘Proud 2B Catholic.’”
“Events such as these help us to see our faith is not removed from our life,” continued Father Hennessey, “but that our faith should be in every aspect of our life.”
Father Hennessey observed that many of the young people attending the festival had “great zeal to follow God’s call,” with some seriously considering the call to the priesthood or religious life.
“I think Proud 2B promotes that it’s OK to be Catholic,” mused Karen Proulx, a 20-year-old from Holy Ghost Parish in Attleboro. “This is fun, and it’s a good thing, because you get to see other Catholics and be inspired by the faith in other people our age.”
Proulx, who attended the festival with 15 members of her parish, believed the “fellowship shared” with other young people was “just great.”
“We are really enjoying ourselves,” she said, smiling.
“I love coming here,” exclaimed Erika Olson, an 18-year-old from Putnam, Conn. Olson, together with 24 other members of the St. Mary Youth Group, attended the concert in order to “live out my faith with other people my age.”
This is the third time she makes the trip to Massachusetts to attend a Proud 2B Catholic concert, she said, and she credits events such as these for bolstering her faith.
“The speakers are great,” she added. “And I especially love the ‘Adoration Chapel.’”
Olson, a recent high school graduate, will be attending Franciscan University this fall and hopes to study religious education.
“I’ll come back every year,” she asserted.
“Catholics aren’t really known for being good musicians,” joked performer Martin Do-man, the headliner for the Music Festival. “This ministry has grown, I think, out of a time of disenchantment with the typical Catholic church music.”
Doman, a cradle Catholic from Pennsylvania, feels that young people often cannot relate to traditional church music, which he feels is often dated and difficult to enjoy. Modern musicians such as the ones performing at the festival help young people to be “proud of their faith.”
“I’m really happy that the Proud 2B [Catholic] festival has become so popular,” he said. “I love it.”