300 attend junior high rally in St. Joseph
By Diane Holtz
Catholic Key Correspondent
ST. JOSEPH - Gathering to sing, play volleyball and cheer on storytellers, over 300 junior high students were encouraged to "catch the Spirit" at the ninth annual Diocesan Junior High Youth Rally held Oct. 18 at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church.
Youth from approximately 25 parishes throughout the Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese participated in the rally, according to Diocesan Director of Youth Ministry Bill Cordaro. He said the purpose was to "give young people a broader sense of Catholic Church," and to offer them an opportunity to meet Catholics their age throughout the Diocese who share their beliefs, questions, and feelings. "There's a real value in having fun and learning about their faith at the same time," he added.
Cordaro noted that this year's junior high rally differed from past years. For the past six years, the rally was a joint effort between the Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese and the Kansas City, Kansas Archdiocese. But this year it was sponsored only by the Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese. And, for the first time in the rally's history, it was held in St. Joseph.
There was a slightly different format, also, as this year's rally did not include a keynote speaker. Instead, youth were divided into three groups and attended interactive workshops titled Catch the Spirit Through Music, Catch the Spirit Through Storytelling, and Catch the Spirit Through Fun and Games.
Nancy Diederich and Joseph Wright, junior high students from St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Kansas City, said they liked the music workshop the best. Wright, an eighth-grader, said the rally was better than he expected it to be. "I thought we would all be sitting at long tables with people talking to us," he said.
Instead, music workshop leader Tom Shay-Zapien had the youth on their feet singing songs and performing actions throughout the afternoon. Shay-Zapien, DRE and director of youth at St.
Matthew Apostle Parish in Kansas City, told participants that the Holy Spirit is often called a Paraclete, which means "comforter" because God offers comfort and healing.
"When we need him the most, God is there," Shay-Zapien noted. "You just have to pay attention."
In the fun and games workshop, youth played a volleyball game with a twist. Using a softer ball, they had to remain seated throughout the game as they attempted to keep the ball in the air. In the first fun and games session, students wore caps with small hoops on them, and tossed marshmallows through the hoops, trying to catch them in their mouths. Workshop leaders were Becky Grasty, youth minister at Sacred Heart Parish, Warrensburg, and Kirstie Owsley, youth minister at St. Sabina Parish, Belton.
"Catching a marshmallow is like catching the Spirit; sometimes you miss," Owsley quipped.
"It was a blast," said Lindsey Tyler, of the fun and games workshop. A member of Sacred Heart Parish, Warrensburg, Tyler noted that the whole afternoon was fun, and she liked meeting students from other parishes.
"I liked the fun and games," said David Burger, an eighth-grader from Our Lady of the Presentation Parish in Lee's Summit. "I just like to go to everything my Church does."
Nancy Beaty, DRE and Confirmation director at Church of the Annunciation Parish in Kearney brought along five high schoolers from the parish to assist her in the storytelling workshop: John Kreidler, David Kreidler, Sarah Chavez, Danny Beaty and James Sondag. Volunteers from the audience led participants in a spirit cheer, and other junior high students acted in a skit about how the gifts of the Holy Spirit can be used.
Beaty told the youth that using the Holy Spirit's gifts brings about the fruits of the Spirit - joy, faithfulness, kindness, goodness, peace, patience, helpfulness and self-control.
This theme was reiterated at the closing prayer service when high schoolers from four St. Joseph parishes explained each fruit of the Spirit, and one reader told participants, "We hope you recognize the fruits of the Spirit in yourself."
At the end of the afternoon, Cordaro thanked the 15 teens from St. Joseph who, along with conducting the closing prayer service, helped set up for the rally and worked with staff and participants throughout the afternoon.
"A lot of the success of high school youth programs is the result of a positive experience at this level (junior high)," Cordaro told The Catholic Key. "We're committed to making this rally a good experience of Church."