By Celine Klosterman
CORALVILLE — The Davenport Diocese’s youth rally is like church — times 10, according to student Mollie Upton.
“It gets you closer to God than you could ever imagine,” said the member of St. Mary Parish in Oxford.
She and about 460 other Catholics nurtured their faith at the annual gathering in the Marriott Conference Center Oct. 27. With the theme “Save the Sinner; Save the World,” the event included two keynote presentations from Rich Curran of Wisconsin, breakout sessions, awards, prayer, music, fellowship and Mass with Bishop Martin Amos and several priests.
“You don’t get to experience something like this at home,” said student Trevor Drish of Ss. Joseph & Cabrini Parish in Richland.
For him, the rally’s highlights were Curran’s energetic presentations. After warming up the crowd with icebreakers and humorous storytelling, the keynoter shared how a sledding accident at age 19 landed him in the hospital with crushed vertebrae and destroyed his dreams of playing for the National Hockey League.
“That night in the hospital was my first authentic prayer,” he said. As he cried himself to sleep, his roommate tried to offer comfort by humming the hymn “Amazing Grace,” whose lyrics include the phrase “saved a wretch like me.”
The Lord came to save sinners and the lost, Curran noted. God reaches out especially to the 16 percent of high school students who’ve thought of suicide in the past year. “He needs you. I need you,” Curran said.
All people have spiritual gifts, or “superpowers,” through which God works, Mike Havercamp said in the breakout session “Saints and Superheroes: Becoming Who You Are.” A member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Davenport, he offered one of the nine sessions available for youths on topics ranging from service to sex to holiness.
Sometimes, “we try to put on masks of people we aren’t,” he said. But as Trappist monk Thomas Merton wrote, “For me to be a saint means to be myself.” So ask a trusted, faith-filled friend what he or she thinks your gifts are — and then use them, Havercamp advised.
In a later breakout, “The Fear of the Choice,” University of Iowa students Nicole Rose and Kryslynn Klimes explored how to make the tough decisions required of Jesus’ disciples.
God is with students in the difficult transitions from high school to college and young adulthood, said Klimes, a native of Ss. Mary & Mathias Parish in Muscatine. But Catholics may need to discern and give up anything that’s keeping them from God’s love and guidance.
Rose, a Missouri native, said she was passionately involved in youth ministry in high school. But in Iowa City, her roommates’ influence helped her “spiral” into the university culture, and she had to find her way back to God.
She offered youths three tips for making good choices: 1) Choose to find virtue, not just to avoid sin; 2) pray for the desire to be with Jesus; and 3) make prayer a lifestyle.
“God doesn’t desire robots — he wants our hearts, but we must give them freely,” Curran said later. Catholics have to own their mistakes, and they need a coach and community to hold them accountable.
Consider students who are lonely or outcast at your school, he told youths. “Where is the Christian community for these people in need?.… Do you get that you have the ability to change lives?”
Open yourself up and say, “Use me, Lord.”
A youth and an adult whom God has used in youth ministry received the diocese’s St. Timothy Award and St. Don Bosco Companion on the Journey Award, formerly the Diocesan Youth Ministry Committee awards. The St. Timothy recognition went to Rebecca Lyons, a student at Prince of Peace Parish in Clinton who is involved in numerous church and community activities. The St. Don Bosco honor went to Michelle Montgomery, who was described as a passionate youth minister at Oxford and Coralville parishes and a leader in youth ministry in the diocese.
In his homily during Mass, Bishop Amos encouraged all Catholics to consider their value in the eyes of the Lord, who loves unconditionally. But the bishop also spoke of humility, which the tax collector in the parable of Luke 18:9-14 showed when praying, “O God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”
“To see ourselves as we really are is not to beat ourselves into the ground,” Bishop Amos said. “To see ourselves as we really are is to look upward and outward. It is to experience how freeing it is to be forgiven… to be made whole.”
Catholics tweet their prayers, reflections
For the first time, organizers of this year’s diocesan high school youth rally asked participants to share prayer requests on the social networking site Twitter at https://twitter.com/DYMCRally13.
This began with the opening prayer session, when the prayers that teenagers tweeted from their phones appeared on a jumbo screen over a period of several minutes. Youths were asked to pray silently for each intention. As the day went on, tweets kept coming. Here are some of them:
Meredith Lumberg@MereLumberg: I hope for everyone to have a wonderful day at the rally and keep God in their hearts.
devin.@missdevingrace: for the sick, the hungry, and the homeless, that they may be blessed with health, a proper meal and a home.
lauren@laurrcarroll: praying for all people with cancer and their families.
Allie Wood@Pine_Wood03: Today definitely opened my eyes
Connor delaney@connordelaney30: MASS WITH BISHOP AMOS! LIFE IS GOOD!!!!
Emily Cadden@small_town0girl: Had a great day:) Very inspirational!