Hundreds of young people are expected to partake of a spiritual banquet later this month in Pueblo that will feature a Pueblo native - the Rev. Christopher Gama.

Lynn Cervi, coordinator of religious faith formation at Holy Family, 2827 Lakeview Ave., and Our Lady of the Meadows, 23 Starling Drive, churches, says 100 middle-schoolers usually attend the two-day Catholic Youth Festival, along with some 300 high-schoolers, from Pueblo, Pueblo West, Rocky Ford, Walsenburg, Florence, Canon City and elsewhere in Southern Colorado. The gathering is open to all youth.

The theme for this year's festival is "Blessed and Broken."

The Shrine of St. Therese, 300 Goodnight Ave., will host this year's gathering with middle-schoolers registering at 6 p.m. Feb. 22 for their session that continues until 9 p.m.

The session for high-schoolers is scheduled to start with noon registration Feb. 23. Continuing until 4 p.m., a special Mass celebrated by Pueblo Bishop Stephen Berg will close out the session.

More festival registration info is available from John Chavez, administrative assistant at the Diocese of Pueblo, 544-9861, ext. 1144.

Lunches at both of the conferences will be provided by St. Therese Knights of Columbus Council 12720. More funding for the festival was provided by Catholic Diocese of Pueblo Foundation.

While the annual youth festival always offers opportunities for spiritual growth and fellowship across socioeconomic and geographic lines, this year's festival is particularly notable for one of Pueblo's own coming home to lead.

Gama was schooled at Sunset Park Elementary School, the former Pitts Middle School and graduated in 1998 from South High School at which he was very active in athletics and played on the school's state championship baseball team. He went on to study engineering at Colorado State University-Pueblo and Colorado State University, Fort Collins; and Spanish at various schools in Colorado Springs, Denver and Puebla, Mexico. He went on to study philosophy at Regis University and Vianney Seminary, both in Denver, graduating with bachelor’s degrees in philosophy from Regis in 2008 and Vianney in 2009.

Ordained in May 2013, Gama is the superior of St. Anthony of Padua Friary at the Archdiocese of Denver, at which he's known for his talks on discipleship.

As part of his ministry formation program in Colorado, Gama has served in the food kitchen at Marian House in Colorado Springs. He also was a Eucharistic minister at St. Francis Nursing Center in Colorado Springs and a youth minister at Annunciation Parish in Denver.

Cervi said the youth festival is a project of the pastoral network made up of a number of youth ministers and religious educators from the Pueblo deanery, which mainly strives to sponsor nationally known speakers.

Gama, however, has a special connection to Pueblo and its youth.

To attend, cost for middle-schoolers is $10, which includes a T-shirt and lunch. Walk-in middle-schoolers' registration is $6. High-schoolers' cost is $15, which includes a T-shirt and lunch.