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Ministry stirs troubled teens

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREPettersson scores another winner, Canucks beat Kings“We’re going to pack this place,” they shout, “with his saving grace.” Welcome to Mega Youth Ministry, an in-your-face outreach ministry to teenagers, some of them Catholic, some of them troubled, all of them moved by Fatica’s high-octane intensity. On Dec. 17, HBO will show a 78-minute documentary about Fatica’s ministry. Filmmaker David Holbrooke ran into Fatica in 2005 and ditched his previous project about faith in America to focus on Fatica. “Justin was so physical and passionate, he just jumped off the screen,” Holbrooke said. “If it was 15 minutes of Justin in a 90-minute film, it would have diminished him and made him seem one-dimensional, and he’s just not.” But some older, more conservative Catholics don’t get it, said Jennifer Robinson, a 20-year-old from Syracuse who first met Fatica at her Catholic high school two years ago. She’s been coming to Mega Youth Ministry ever since. “Some parts of it get out of hand,” she said. “I’d rather have it that way than not get through at all.” Fatica, 29, says he’s heard some of the criticism, “mostly from people of the church.” When he hears the complaints, he thinks of St. Francis of Assisi, who was known to ask his brothers to treat him the way people treated the destitute at that time, by stripping them and dragging them through the village by a rope. “He would do it in his underwear and everybody would be like, `What’s his deal?”‘ Fatica said, smiling. “Just like a lot of the things that I’m doing. (People say,) `What is this guy doing? This isn’t Catholic, this is Baptist!”‘ Perhaps, but some say maybe that’s just what the area – and the church – needs. Bob Halligan Jr., the leader of the six-person Mega Youth band, said this corner of the Catholic Church tends to be “very much on the sleepy side.” And Fatica, he said, might just be able to wake it up. “We’re really going after God on this,” he said, “so some people get spooked.” Fatica challenges teens to confront their inner demons, including drug use, sexual violence, bulimia, suicidal thoughts, self-injury and alcoholic parents. Some teens say Mega Youth has helped them overcome destructive behavior. “You could come here, no matter what you did, and you’ll never be judged,” said Rob Bellucci, 15, a high school freshman. “You see a lot of other people going through the same things, and it’s just like, `Hey, I’m not alone.”‘ Young Catholics like Robinson say Fatica offers something teens need to hear.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! ONONDAGA, N.Y. – Devotional candles flicker in the breeze that blows through the open windows of the Church of St. Michael and St. Peter. It’s past dusk, but it’s not at all quiet. A muscular man commands the attention of the group of about 70 – most of them teenagers – crammed into the front pews. His voice, whispering a moment ago, fills the nave. “If you’re not ready to pump it up, go home!” shouts Justin Fatica, veins bulging from his forehead, his fists punching the air like a professional wrestler goading the crowd. “If you’re not ready to pump it up, go out in the rain!” Nobody leaves. The lights go down. The rock band kicks on and dozens of teenagers start jumping up and down, dancing, clapping and singing. last_img