DALLAS — Three years ago, 21-year-old Gabby Lopez gave up on the Catholic church.
"I just stopped coming," she said.
Lopez and her 29-year-old cousin, Lupita Alvarado, said they took a hiatus.
But this Easter, they've had a change of heart
"I just want to get back into coming to church, feeling good about myself", Alvarado said.
Like many wayward millennials, Lopez and Alvarado are returning to Mass... en mass.
Long forgotten are the church's scandals, thanks — in part — to a former bouncer from Argentina who is now the spiritual leader of the Roman Catholics.
Alvarado said Pope Francis has inspired young people like her to return. "He's just an amazing person," she said. "He's the best pope we have ever had."
Perfect proof is the jam-packed crowd at the Cathedral Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe in downtown Dallas. In both the main sanctuary, the overflow sanctuary and the patio outside the church, young faithful filled the pews, lined the walls, and stood in line for Easter services.
The Rev. Rudy Garcia, who said he has witnessed the return of jaded Catholics, recently created an evening Mass to cater to young professionals in their 20s, 30s and 40s.
"It's a real joy to see how the young people are responding to the message of Jesus Christ", Father Garcia said.
That message is reaching young people like Lupita Alvarado, who said she no longer feels like she has to defend her faith.
"It's cool to be Catholic nowadays," she said with a laugh.