By Celine Klosterman
CORALVILLE — ValLimar Jansen got about 645 youths to fill a room with singing, praise and music Oct. 4, but she urged them to spend a few silent minutes with the Lord daily, too.
“Prayer is two-way,” said the keynoter at the Davenport Diocese’s High School Youth Rally. “Too often we don’t allow God to speak to us.”
The singer and storyteller offered two, hour-long presentations at the Coralville Marriott Conference Center during the rally, whose theme was “Jesus Christ, King of Heart and Soul.” The day-long event also featured breakout sessions on faith-related topics, Mass with Bishop Martin Amos, presentation of Diocesan Youth Ministry Committee (DYMC) awards, a skit performed by DYMC members, music from Christian band 1 of 12, prayer and time for a dance and games.
In her morning presentation, Jansen kept audience members dancing and clapping through song and prayer for about a half-hour, then quieted the room to lead youths through a meditative exercise. Drawing on her background in theater, she later retold the biblical story of the Samaritan woman at the well from the woman’s perspective and narrated the creation story.
“One thing we need to realize if God is to be king of our heart and soul is that he created us out of great love,” she said. There was separation because of sin, but because of God’s love, he offered redemption and the opportunity for everlasting life, she said.
Later, in a morning breakout session on personality and prayer, Susan Hagarty gave youths a brief personality inventory and suggested types of prayer she thought would best suit the students. The youth minister at Immaculate Conception Parish in Colfax offered one of 15 available breakouts, which covered topics including the National Catholic Youth Conference, college, social justice, the sacrament of reconciliation, coping with cliques and respecting life.
“God created us with different personalities,” said Hagarty, a former counselor. “Some people are comfortable with some forms of prayer, while others are not.”
Basing her presentation in part on a book on personality types, she described four kinds of people: task-oriented, leadership-driven Reds; empathetic, perfectionist Blues; quiet, peacemaking Greens; and optimistic, enthusiastic Purples. She suggested Reds would enjoy leading a Bible study; Blues appreciate service projects and the sacrament of reconciliation; Greens like meditative prayers such as the rosary; and Purples thrive on the creativity of finding a Christian message in something mainstream — like a Backstreet Boys song.
Youths explored several types of prayer in Jansen’s afternoon presentation, as they had in her morning keynote. She first brought students to their feet for more song, dance and prayer. Donning a colorful costume, she then told the story of Jesus healing a blind man on the Sabbath, from the view of a neighbor of the man’s mother.
As Jesus was with that man, he walks with us always, Jansen said. And “when we leave Mass, we take him in ourselves to be his presence for the world.”
At the rally, one youth and adult were honored for being that presence. Liz Mastalio, former DYMC chair, and Crystal DeNeve, youth minister at St. Mary Parish in Grinnell, received the seventh-annual DYMC awards for advancement of comprehensive youth ministry.
Mastalio has been a peer leader in confirmation preparation at St. Mary Parish in Iowa City, lector and violinist, and has coordinated serving of meals to homeless people and visited hospital patients weekly. “Whatever she does, she does it with a smile on her face and love in her heart,” said Father Ken Kuntz, pastor of St. Mary’s in Iowa City.
DeNeve has played a leading role in QUEST and Teens Encounter Christ retreats and the Christian Leadership Institute. “She has always been there if you needed someone to talk to,” said Natalie Sims, a youth at St. Mary’s in Grinnell. She said DeNeve is the reason Sims is a DYMC member and the reason Sims applied to be a youth animator at the National Catholic Youth Conference in November, during which Sims will lead prayer and worship.
After the awards presentation, about 75 youths packed a room for a breakout in which Deb Wallace discussed her vocation of rescuing animals through her organization Down By the Creek in Long Grove. Ann Mohr, who like Wallace belongs to St. Ann Parish in Long Grove, introduced the session that was held on the feast of St. Francis of Assisi. She cited Catholic Social Teaching’s call to care for God’s creation, then referred to Genesis 1:26, in which God gives humans dominion over other living things. People sometimes misinterpret that verse as saying they can do whatever they want to animals, Mohr said. But she said it actually means we have responsibility for animals’ care.
Wallace then showed chickens, rabbits, turtles, ferrets, a snake and other animals rescued from abusive, neglectful or incapable owners. She urged students to research how to care for a pet before buying it.
Toward the rally’s end, Bishop Amos presided at Mass and several diocesan priests concelebrated. In his homily, the bishop urged youths to show God glory through their speech, talents and treatment of each other.
An earlier breakout in which Bishop Amos had discussed vocations and a session in which youths learned to make rosaries were Hillary Kaefring’s favorite parts of the rally. Meeting in smaller groups during those breakouts felt more personal, said the member of St. Mary Parish in Solon.
She and Lauren Benzing, also from St. Mary’s, both appreciated connecting with other faith-filled youths at the rally — something Kaefring said isn’t as easy to do at their public high school.
Dustin Schafbuch of St. Bridget Parish in Victor praised the rally’s ability to help youths improve their relationship with God, and said he especially enjoyed the creativity involved in the rosary-making breakout.
Derek Cavin, also from St. Bridget’s, appreciated the emphasis Ray Shovlain, men’s basketball coach at St. Ambrose University in Davenport, put on family relationships in his breakout session.
Jansen’s presentations were a highlight for Benzing, Kaefring and Heather Bland of St. Mary Parish in Lone Tree. “She made it so much fun,” Bland said. The rally in general made exploring your faith enjoyable, she added.