persons, places and things: A faith-building experience

By Barb Arland-Fye

My 14-year-old son Patrick wasn’t exactly looking forward to the Diocesan Junior High Youth Rally, but agreed to attend.

Privately, I wasn’t sure I wanted to devote an entire Sunday to the event because of other projects vying for my attention. But God seemed to be nudging Patrick and me toward the rally at Regina Catholic Education Center in Iowa City.

The night before the March 29 rally, it snowed furiously in the Quad-City area. Travel became treacherous and doubts surfaced in both of our minds about whether we ought to attend the rally. Patrick asked me, somewhat hopefully, “Do you think they’ll cancel it?”

Early the next morning our parish’s youth minister, Jennifer Hildebrand, called to see whether I wanted to accompany her to the rally. It had not been cancelled.

We accepted her offer and headed on our way. Accompanying us were three sixth-grade girls, one of whom also is a member of our parish.

The difficult part of attending a youth-related activity with my son is that I strive too hard to gauge his interest and participation in the event. Understandably, that bothers him.

As the youth rally began, I couldn’t resist watching his reaction to the music of live band “1 of 12” and the headliner, acoustic humor band Popple, composed of Kyle Heimann and Dan Harms.

Sneaking an occasional glance at Patrick, I could tell he was enjoying the music, along with the wit and faith-filled wisdom of Popple. When Popple performed a rap song, a grin formed on Patrick’s face.

Afterward, we headed our separate ways to breakout sessions. He chose “Be a Leader” with Ray Shovlain, men’s basketball coach and athletic director at St. Ambrose University in Davenport, and I chose “Be Strong for You, Be Strong for Youth” with Popple.

Both of us appreciated the sessions we attended.

The lasting message I took away from my session was that it doesn’t matter whether Patrick appeared to be enjoying the rally. What mattered was his witnessing of a powerful, faith-affirming event with several-hundred of his peers.

Later that afternoon, Patrick attended a session on “Faith and Sports” with Father Marty Goetz, the diocese’s vocations director, and his niece, Jen Goetz, an assistant coach at St. Ambrose. I decided to sit in on that session because I enjoy listening to Fr. Goetz. He is an energetic speaker who engages his audience. He didn’t disappoint, and neither did Coach Jen.  The lesson we took away from the dynamic Goetz duo is that we have a God of second, third, fourth and fifth chances. When we fail, we need to remember that God will give us another chance to do better.

Mass with Bishop Martin Amos followed, and it was especially joyous because of the enthusiastic participation of the Diocesan Youth Ministry Committee (DYMC) and all of the youth who attended.

Afterward, Patrick thanked Kyle Heimann of Popple and shook hands with Bishop Amos.

Popple noted in the adult breakout session that we are human beings, not human doers. That thought struck me as I reflected on the day. Both Patrick and I had been reluctant to give up a whole day to a church-related activity because we wanted to do other things. By the end of the day, we were thanking God for the privilege of being with him.

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