By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
Youths from Oskaloosa and Pella weren’t sure what to expect when they traveled to their former pastor’s alma mater, St. Meinrad Seminary & School of Theology in St. Meinrad, Indiana, for a week-long liturgy conference. Soon enough, they realized they were in for a transformative experience.
“After the first day, I realized what a special place St. Meinrad really is,” said Ciara Buchheit of St. Mary Parish in Pella.
Four youths from St. Mary parishes in Oskaloosa and Pella attended the St. Meinrad Youth Conference last month. Donna DeJoode, the Oskaloosa parish’s youth minister and director of Religious Education, and Carol Laughlin, the Pella parish’s director of Religious Education, heard about the conference from then-pastor Father Jeffry Belger, who attended seminary at St. Meinrad. Fr. Belger is now campus minister at The Newman Catholic Student Center and parochial vicar of St. Mary Parish in Iowa City.
Upon arriving at the conference, youths formed 10 groups, each focusing on a specific area of liturgy for the week. The tracks were instrumental music, chanting and singing, Eucharist, Scripture reading, preaching, altar serving, serving as master of ceremonies, hospitality, stewardship and arts. Youths were to practice what they learned at Masses during the week.
They also spent time in fellowship and prayer. College students supervised the youths during the week and catechists offered instruction. DeJoode said the speakers were never too far away if the youths wanted to engage in discussion.
Adults had their own track in which they were able to take part in prayer, social time and adult workshops — something DeJoode and Laughlin enjoyed. “Our job was to relax and have faith time without having to worry about kids,” DeJoode said. A highlight for her was seeing the youths “sing from their toes” during one of the final Masses that week.
Buchheit “enjoyed meeting new people, some of whom I’ve kept in touch with, and also learning so many different things about Liturgy of the Hours and other parts of our faith. Lastly, it was amazing to sing during Mass with hundreds of other teenagers who were there for the same reason: to worship and praise God.”
Cade and Coy Snakenberg of the Oskaloosa parish wrote a joint reflection on their experience at St. Meinrad. “We learned more ways to be better leaders in the Catholic Church. … One of the highlights was every now and then we got to meet a monk and have a conversation with him. We also had middle of the night prayers. That was a very special time for both of us.
“The week was great. We want to encourage any high-schooler not to hesitate to go if given the opportunity. We both hope we get a chance to go again. It was an experience like we’ve never had before.”