SALEM — Salem is known the world over for its involvement with witchcraft and the occult, but on Aug. 9 hundreds of Catholics from around New England — most of them young adults and teens — arrived at its doors, not in search of potions and spells, but of prayers and adoration.
Live 2B Holy, the third annual all-day Catholic music festival, created by Proud 2B Catholic, transformed the Salem Common into a makeshift house of prayer.
"Naturally people tend to tie in the witch-thing and the spiritual battle -- and there's definitely that aspect of it -- but there's so much more to this festival than just that," commented Peter Campbell, the founder and coordinator of the free music festival. "Anytime you have a gathering like this, it gets people excited about their faith."
According to Campbell, approximately 25 coordinators and 100 volunteers “put together” the event. He admitted that coordinating the all-day festival was “certainly a big undertaking,” but was pleased to be “doing his part” to help sustain the faith of those in attendance.
Several white tents lined the common, inviting participants to delve into different aspects of their Catholic faith. In the Eucharistic Adoration tent, young people silently adored the Blessed Sacrament; in the Confession Tent, lines of Catholics waited as six priests absolved penitents of their sins; in the Music and Ministry tent, speakers such as Steve Colella of the archdiocese’s Office of Youth Ministry, and his wife Kari, of the Office for Young Adults, exhorted listeners to deepen their faith.
In the center of it all, an enormous stage with live performers including Tony Melendez, Steve Angrisano, Jesse Manibusan, and the Irish Christian Band Ceili Rain, entertained the festival-goers, as throngs of teens danced to the beat of the music.
The day held something for everyone.
"This is just amazing," remarked Pat Sullivan, a 17 year-old from St. Brendan Parish in Bellingham. Clad in a T-shirt with the words "Just Live It" emblazoned on the front, Sullivan shook his head in awe. "Just to see people getting together to worship the Lord like this is amazing. I am truly blown away by the entire experience," he said.
Andrea Segovia, a 15 year-old from St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Brunswick, Maine, drove over three and a-half hours with her friend in order to come to the concert. “I just love concerts like these. This is awesome,” she said.
"This is really good stuff," declared David LaPointe, father of a 16 year-old. LaPointe drove 10 teens from his parish, St. Michael in Exeter, N.H., to the festival. "I am absolutely impressed by the quality of the performers, as I am by the music itself. It gives the kids their own vehicle to worship God in their own way."
Brittany Almeida, a 15 year-old parishioner from All Saints Parish in Woonsocket, R.I., wearing a shirt declaring “You are what you eat,” smiled and swayed to the music of Manibusan. Despite a broken ankle, Almeida was determined to experience the music festival. “This is awesome. I wouldn’t have missed this for anything,” she said.
For Manibusan, performing at such an event was nothing new. For the past 20 years, people around the world have been treated to his version of Christian rock. However, speaking to The Pilot, Manibusan marveled at the “unique intergenerational” nature of the festival. “This is not entirely a youth event, this is a people event,” he stated.
The festival concluded with a vigil Mass, celebrated by Father Oscar Pratt, director of vocations for the Archdiocese of Boston, with close to 1,000 people in attendance.
According to Campbell, this year’s concert was not as well attended as prior years, although he believes the shaky weather forecast, which called for rain throughout the day, “no doubt turned quite a few people off.”
"It turned into a great event this year. I am sure that everyone will be talking about it and, hopefully, will get excited for next year's concert," he said.
As the festival came to a close, next year’s concert theme — “Choose 2 Believe” — was announced. According to Campbell, the 2004 concert may turn into a two-day affair, and will likely not be a free concert anymore, “because this year we really came up short.” However, he is confident that “it will all come together” and will continue to “get people excited about their faith.”