About 1,000 teenagers — the official count was 995 — and their chaperones rocked the bleachers of Cal State East Bay’s gym at a Saturday morning hour when most would expect to find 13- to 18-year-olds still sleeping.

They were wide awake, singing along with Christian rock musicians as they waited for Mass to begin.

Their wakefulness was all the more astonishing, given reports by diocesan priests that they had been hearing confessions until 11:30 p.m. Friday. Organizers said confessions were supposed to end at 11 p.m., but the priests were willing to stay later.

Welcome to the Steubenville NorCal Catholic Youth Conference, the first time the event, a collaboration of Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, and Life Teen, which describes itself as a movement within the Roman Catholic Church, to lead teenagers and their families into a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ and His Church, has been held in the East Bay.

“Adoration makes everything better,” said Giovanni Alvarez, a recent high school graduate and a parishioner at Immaculate Heart of Mary in Brentwood, who said he had never been to a conference this size.

“This is 1,000 in a room,” he said, but it still felt personal.

Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, celebrated the Saturday morning Mass. With him was Bishop Larry Silva, Honolulu, who served as a priest of the Diocese of Oakland until being named bishop. Diocesan priests and seminarians served at the Mass.

The teens were active participants in the Mass, with the words of songs and responses to prayers projected on big screens above the altar. At the Eucharistic Prayer, many found a way to kneel in the narrow bleachers.

“I’m very uplifted by seeing so many young people turn out, all encouraged by their parish leaders, so many priests here, pastors supporting their youth,” Bishop Barber said after Mass.

“It just shows what a thirst there is in our youth for the authentic Christ, through the sacraments of the church — prayer, Confession, Holy Communion. That’s what the kids are taking away from here. That they’re not the only believer on the block. They’re supported by each other,” he said.

Full story at The Catholic Voice.