By Rachel Noel/Freelance Writer, OND
E. Grand Forks – On Oct. 28, 2018, more than 300 diocesan youth and chaperones gathered at Sacred Heart, East Grand Forks, for the annual Diocese of Crookston Senior High Youth Rally.
Keynote speaker Ennie Hickman emceed the event which was organized by Diocesan Youth Events Coordinator, Brady Borslien and Partnership for Youth. Christian musician Abraham Gross from St. Paul performed throughout the day.
“Wherever you are in your faith journey, it is great that you are here today,” Hickman said, “Today is about you and God. Ever since I started to understand who God really is, my life has been incredible. It hasn’t been easy, but Jesus never said, ‘Come, follow me, it’s going to be easy.’ He said, ‘Take my cross upon your shoulders and follow me.’”
Hickman explained that young people are continuously pulled in different directions and it affects their relationships with God.
“Kids today are so stressed out and when I ask them why, they say ‘I need to make good grades because I need to get into college so that I can graduate from college so that I can get a job and make money.’ Some of you are 14 years old and are stressed about making money when you’re 22. Take a break and breathe,” he said.
The theme of the afternoon was “Anchored in Christ”. Hickman explained that in Scripture, the anchor symbolizes God and faith – that which keeps us persistent and provides unwavering courage through life’s inevitable storms.
“Luke 8:8 says: ‘He who has ears to hear, let him hear.’ The question is, do you even have ears to hear it? God wants to give us life to the fullest and there’s no way we do that without opening our ears and asking God, ‘How can I be anchored in you?’,” he said.
Hickman emphasized that God’s love for us is specific, and he loves each of us individually.
“If I asked, ‘God, do you know Jenny?’ he would say, ‘I love Jenny! I love the way she does her hair, and I love how she snorts when she laughs.’ Realize that you were made in God’s image and you are a child of God. He does not show favoritism, he loves YOU just as much as he loves St. Thérèse of Lisieux, and he wants to free you, and anchor your soul.”
Hickman stressed the idea of being anchored in God and looking to him for guidance during troubling times.
“The scripture today comes from Hebrews 6:19 and it says, ‘We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.’ The idea of an anchor is something that keeps us in place and holds us tight from swaying into the rocks. What is the anchor in your life? Do you feel like you are swaying away from God? We want him to be our anchor and nothing else,” he said.
As a recent high school graduate, Joshua Johnson understands it can be tough for students to stay anchored in the Catholic faith. Johnson is in his first year of studies. He and three other diocesan seminarians from Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary in Winona were present for the youth rally.
“One of the tough parts of high school for me was keeping that element of faith alive and actively participating in it. When I was younger, the youth rallies allowed me to have a few more of those experiences,” Johnson said. “It is fun being back here as a seminarian and helping out with everything from a different perspective.”
Partnership for Youth Event Coordinator, Sarah Prudhom said it was her fifth event collaborating with the Diocese of Crookston.
“It’s important to provide rallies like this at the diocesan level because it brings kids together from all over and gives them a broader idea of the greater church. It shows them that there are other kids just like them that are interested in hearing God’s message. It’s also a great way to reiterate the importance of the sacraments. We provide them with the opportunity for confession and they get to celebrate Mass with the bishop,” she said.
Many parent chaperones and youth ministers were also in attendance.
“When my daughter heard about this event, she was so excited and she really wanted to come. She has attended JPII camp the last couple of years in Park Rapids and really loved it, and she made friends from other towns at those events and was so excited to come here and see them today,” said Beth Merschman from St. Joseph, Bagley.
“We have 14 10th graders in our church who have attended the JPII camps and the Steubenville conferences and they know some of the kids from the other churches, so when we told them there was a senior high youth rally, all 14 of them wanted to come, which is a lot for our small church. We were very fortunate this year,” said Lori Balstad, Youth Coordinator at St. Mary’s in Fosston.
Bishop Michael J. Hoeppner concelebrated Mass with seven area priests.
During his homily, Bishop Hoeppner said, “Our loving God is so big, he has a personal relationship with every human being that ever was and ever will be. He knows you, and he knows me better than we know ourselves. He is working on a life to bring us home so that we can be happy. Getting home happens through a personal relationship with Jesus. There is no other way to get home.”
Following Mass, Formator for the Office of Formation in Discipleship Bob Noel presented the St. Timothy Award for Excellence on behalf of the Diocese of Crookston. Teens who exemplify Christian service, Catholic leadership, and live as disciples of Christ, setting a positive example for fellow youth are nominated by their youth ministers, then two recipients are selected.
“The St. Timothy award is an important award, if nothing else, for all of us to hear this verse from 1 Timothy: ‘Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for others in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity.’ I kind of cringe when I hear people say, ‘Young people are the future of the church.’ Whenever I hear that I say no, young people are the church. This award recognizes the fact that right now, among us, in our everyday lives, we have young people who are being the body of Christ to their classmates, families, parents, and to their communities,” he said.
Tobias Glen of St. Philip, Bemidji, and Anadia Cruz of St. Francis de Sales, Moorhead, received the award.
“It’s important to me to be someone that the younger kids in the church can look up to while they strive to be more involved in our faith,” Glen said.
“I try to show the younger kids that Christ is the one to follow and just show them the way by helping them throughout their faith journey,” Cruz said.
CLICK HERE for additional images from the Senior High Youth Rally.