By Madi Field/Freelance Writer, OND
Nearly 200 youth attended this year’s diocesan Middle School Youth Rally held at St. Philip, Bemidji on March 18. The theme was “Fully Alive”. The diocese has been holding Middle School Youth Rally events since 2007. For the second year, they collaborated with the organization Partnership for Youth to plan and execute the rally. Partnership for Youth is responsible for coordinating the Steubenville Conferences held in St. Paul, Rochester and Kenosha, Wis.
The rally started with a few games and worship songs. Then Maggie Craig, a young adult speaker who graduated from the University of Steubenville, Ohio, began the keynote presentation. Many enjoyed her energy and enthusiasm. During her presentation, Craig joked with the audience by telling intense stories with exaggerated tangents to keep their attention and emphasize her points. Her catch-line was “Just kidding!,” which made the youth laugh and kept them engaged.
During the keynote, she spoke of how faith is something exciting. One youth reported her favorite part being when Craig said, “the person we are should not change in the different places we go.” The youth said it helped her realize that she could be herself at church. Craig encouraged this to be a time for all people to come alive through their relationships with God and the Catholic faith.
The rally included time for basketball, live music by Connor Flanagan and snacks. During the basketball tournament, many youth were excited as they chose names for their teams like “The Socks” and “Nuggets.” One of the coaches for the St. Joseph, Moorhead’s team said: “You know, our Catholic faith makes us winners, and that’s what we plan to do today with our basketball team.” A group of girls said they enjoyed having free time to talk with friends and have a few choices of activities. It seemed important to the youth to have day-to-day life activities mixed in with the sacraments and prayer at the rally.
One staff member realized that she has been helping with youth ministry for three generations of families. She said seeing students who have grown up and brought their own kids back made her realize there is a lot of hope in the Church.
The youth had time for Adoration and praise and worship during the rally and filed in for Mass at 5 p.m. It was a good time to center the focus back on why everyone was there. During the homily, Bishop Michael J. Hoeppner spoke about God’s heart and his unconditional love that puts each of us at ease and keeps us totally connected to him and his Church. He said, “Jesus died on the cross to take care of what was standing in the way … our sin.”
As Catholics, part of our Lenten journey is taking up our own cross and carrying it as Jesus did.
“The beauty of the Cross, this is God’s gift to us … There are plenty of things in this life that we want that are good for us, but there are some things in this life that are not good for us and Jesus says; ‘Stay away from that’,” said Bishop Hoeppner. He also said obedience equals delight.
Before the final address, Flanagan led another praise and worship song. Many of the youth seemed to enjoy the incorporation of his music at the rally. One youth said the time of Adoration with praise and worship was one of their favorite parts of the rally.
When Craig returned to the stage, she was full of life, energy, and enthusiasm about the faith. She told a beautiful story of one of her friend’s engagements and again tricked youth into thinking that the story was going another way. She encouraged the crowd to ask God, “what do you want from me?” and to realize that his love demands a response just like her friend’s proposal required a response. Craig reiterated what she said earlier about the need to “jump in” to church life, just as she had jumped off a waterfall. She restated the importance of keeping faith the central point in life. “The church is for you,” Craig exclaimed. Her presentation was encouraging for the youth. She explained that when people feel alone, they need to cheer each other on. When fellowship is lacking, people can look to the Saints in heaven. Just like athletes in marathons cheer each other on and support each other, the Church and all her Saints do the same.
Brady Borslien, the Youth Ministry Events Coordinator for the diocese, said he was grateful for all those who helped make the rally happen: youth ministers, those who helped with meals and set up, Bishop Hoeppner, all the other priests and deacons present, and all the youth for being open and willing to give Jesus the chance to draw them near to his heart.
Borslien requested that people throughout the diocese pray that the energy Craig brought with her to the rally will be extended into each heart that was present. He also requested prayers for youth ministers and the continuing development of the youth programs in this diocese, that everyone in the Diocese of Crookston may be fully alive in Jesus Christ.