By Celine Klosterman
IOWA CITY — When she was just 5 years old, Anne Marie Cribbin had an identity crisis.
While watching the 1943 film “The Song of Bernadette,” the child perceived several similarities between herself and the 19th century French saint. “I realized, I’m St. Bernadette!”
Her father eventually set her straight. “Yes, you can be a saint,” he told his prayerful daughter. “But you’re not St. Bernadette.”
We’re called to sainthood, too, Cribbin told about 420 youths and adults during the Davenport Diocese’s junior high youth rally March 21. But we need to maintain a relationship with God to answer that call, said the parish youth minister in the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. She was keynote presenter for the rally at Regina Catholic Education Center in Iowa City.
The way to be in a relationship with God is to pray, Cribbin noted. Leading into advice on prayer, she said that as her confirmation approached, she was unsure about faith and told a priest she didn’t know how to talk to God. The priest responded: “When you get out of bed in the morning, say ‘help.’ When you go to bed at night, say ‘thank you.’”
“God is ridiculously in love with you” and wants to be part of your journey, Cribbin said.
After her morning keynote, five high-school members of the Diocesan Youth Ministry Committee, which helps plan and coordinate the annual rally, presented to 60 students a breakout session using improvisational comedy to re-imagine Bible scenes. “Whose Bible is it Anyway?” was among nine sessions — on topics including saints, poverty and hunger, angels and praying through art — that youths could choose from during the rally.
Later, after warming students up with icebreakers in her afternoon talk, Cribbin shared a struggle she’d had while volunteering for a teen faith camp. She found one student, Andrew, troublesome. So a Sister took him and her to visit a 92-year-old woman, Bessie, who had advanced Alzheimer’s disease. The Sister asked Andrew to sit with Bessie, play a tape of folk singer John Denver and blow bubbles — something Bessie enjoyed.
Cribbin saw his task as “punishment” and left. But when she returned to get Andrew more than an hour later, he asked to stay a few more minutes. He blew a few bubbles, and Bessie, who’d been lying still in bed, opened her eyes and swatted at a few of them. “Isn’t that beautiful?” Andrew asked.
“This kid I’d written off — God used him to rock my world,” Cribbin said. Andrew recognized a human being’s dignity; he saw Christ in Bessie, she said.
Cribbin also told how, while growing up, her mother once took her to comfort a grieving widow – but it turned out the woman’s husband wasn’t dead. Still, “what Mom did is our calling,” Cribbin said. Sometimes it’s awkward, but Jesus didn’t come to make us comfortable. “We are to be the person who sits with the girl no one else wants to in the cafeteria. We are to say, ‘Mom and Dad, we haven’t been to church in three weeks; we need to start going again.’”
We’re called to live holy, profound lives day-to-day — to reflect God even while walking through the school halls, Cribbin said. “We’re called to be God’s hands and feet for today.”
Following her talk, rally participants took a break to celebrate raising $162 for Christian Leadership Institute (CLI) scholarships by throwing whipped-cream pies at three DYMC members. Students had bought 25-cent votes for the members they wanted to throw pies at, and Alex Trujillo, Julia Arth and Alex Schalla were “elected.” CLI is a weeklong event designed to teach high-school age students leadership skills to use in youth ministry settings.
Later, in an afternoon breakout on acts of random kindness, about 30 students listed helpful acts they could do. Leading the session titled “Build Your ARK,” DYMC members showed clips from the 2007 movie “Evan Almighty,” in which God urges the title character to change the world with kind acts.
Youths then united for Mass, for which Christian band 1 of 12 provided music. In his homily, Bishop Martin Amos spoke on the Gospel story in which Jesus says that only someone free of sin could stone an accused adulteress. Bishop Amos noted we have all sinned, so we have no reason to point out others’ flaws.
But though we are invited to “call to mind our sins” during Mass and confess our failings in the sacrament of reconciliation, we shouldn’t get stuck in them, he said. We ask forgiveness and strive to do better.
Part of doing so might be for today — getting through one day without arguing or criticizing, for example. Improving might also be during Lent, the bishop said, or for life — continuing the pursuit of God’s calling.
Toward the rally’s end, youths Kyra Lamartine and Molly Meierotto of St. Mary Parish in West Point said they appreciated Cribbin’s talks. Her stories made her lessons understandable, Molly said. “They made us listen.”
Kyra said she enjoyed hearing how students that Cribbin spoke of connected to God.
For Madelyn Orton of Holy Family Parish in Fort Madison, the breakout session “Whose Bible is it Anyway?” was especially enjoyable. “I liked how (the presenters) took a Bible story and found a funny way for us to understand it better.”
People at the rally were nice, she said. “It was really fun. It was a great experience.”