By Celine Klosterman
A Catholic conference and service trip got 22 youths from St. Mary Parish in Solon fired up for their faith.
The parish youth group and three chaperones spent July 10-15 in Appleton, Wis., for Alive in You, which offered speakers, Mass, reconciliation, team building, faith sharing, games and a service opportunity. Solon youths painted, cleaned, and helped with landscaping and other preparations for the Experimental Aircraft Association’s late-July air show in Oshkosh, Wis.
“It was awesome to have our parish there working together to reach a common goal,” said Reagan Johnson, 17.
“For lots of families, this air show is their summer vacation because they can’t afford anything more,” said Sean Lokmer, St. Mary’s youth minister. He said some youths had hoped to directly serve families in need, but he tried to convince service teams they were “paying it forward to families we may never meet.”
After three days of service, Alive in You offered a weekend-long conference. “They’d pump us up with games, music and speakers, and put us on fire for Christ every night,” said Lauren Benzing, 17.
But the conference also emphasized practical ways for youths to practice their religion at home. “It’s easy to live out your faith when you have all these Catholic people around you, but how are you going to do so during the drudgeries of daily life?” Lokmer asked.
Speakers’ suggestions included daily Mass, prayer and eucharistic adoration. “The focus of the whole week was that Jesus in the Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith,” Benzing recalled. “You can come to the Eucharist for strength in hard times.”
She and fellow parishioner Johnson, were especially inspired by witness talks, including one from a man who spoke on grieving the loss of his son.
“I absolutely loved the speakers,” Johnson said. “Not only because they told how they fought through struggles, but because they focused on the positive and shared how God helped them get to the highs of their life.”
She and Benzing spoke to St. Mary youths, too. “The theme of my talk was that our gifts aren’t all about us — they’re more about how to give back to God,” Johnson said. “Nothing you do would be possible without him. If you keep all the pride for yourself, it will weigh down on you, but giving the glory to him is like taking a weight off your shoulders.”
Alive in You reminded her she has fellow Catholics to turn to in times of need. “It was reassuring to see all these people there working so hard. I know they all have my back, no matter what.”
“The conference was incredible,” Benzing said. “I definitely grew in faith.”