The Catholic Messenger
IOWA CITY — One by one, youths from the Diocese of Davenport stacked cardboard bricks in a circle, forming the shape of a well. Moments later, Diocesan Youth Ministry Committee (DYMC) member Rebecca Crawford stood near the structure and presented a modern interpretation of the woman at the well. The high school student from St. Mary Parish in Grinnell interpreted with passion the inner thoughts of the woman of Samaria as she encounters Jesus.
“No drink passing from these hands to your lips could ever be refreshing,” Rebecca recited in the four-and-a-half minute dramatic monologue. “Only condemning, as I’m sure you condemn me now. But you don’t. … You whisper and tell me to my face what all those glances have been about, and you take the time to really look at me. …For to be known is to be loved and to be loved is to be known.”
This interpretation from John’s Gospel set the tone for the 2017 Junior High Youth Rally, “iThirst,” which took place March 19 at Regina Catholic Education Center in Iowa City. The Diocesan Youth Ministry Committee’s high school youths and youth ministry leaders planned the event and brought it to life.
The day began with icebreaker games in the main gym. Youths laughed as they enjoyed life-sized “Jenga” and “Hungry Hungry Hippos,” among other games. Youths also tried on props and posed for pictures with a cardboard cutout of Pope Francis.
The youths then headed into the cafeteria to personalize the cardboard bricks to be used to make the well. High school DYMC member Donna Diggs of Our Lady of Victory Parish in Davenport said the act of placing the individualized bricks into one structure symbolized the Catholic community and offered a nice visual reminder of the day’s theme.
Cooper Ray, a speaker and worship leader from Dallas, Texas, mixed music into his message about how to identify superficial desires and seek more permanent joy and fulfillment in Jesus. “People are tempted to thirst for popularity, academic and athletic achievement and material possessions, the shallow trappings of the world,” he said. “In actuality, those things that seem to be the answer obviously are not. A life centered on Christ is the answer.” He explained to the youths that they should desire to bring Jesus into their lives and help others satiate their desires through Jesus as well.
All of the major rally events were broadcast live on the Diocese of Davenport Youth and Young Adult Ministry Facebook page. People at home could watch during the rally or view the video later.
Following a pizza lunch, the youths participated in three breakout sessions. One focused on finding time for God in the midst of a busy life; one featured a game of Catholic Jeopardy, and one focused on the upsides and downsides of technology. While students expressed interest in all three topics, the technology breakout really hit home.
Breakout speaker Tommy Fallon, coordinator for youth ministry at Ss. Mary & Mathias Parish in Muscatine, said young people today spend an average of nine hours per day online. In anonymous evaluations, many youths said the session made them think about how much time they spend on cell phones and computers, and how that can be both good and bad. One youth commented that the breakout helped her think about how she could use social media to evangelize as opposed to “ranting about the bad things in life.” Many youths said they want to spend less time on social media and more time with family and in prayer. “I shouldn’t live on my phone,” another youth commented.
One new feature of this year’s junior high rally was the “Jesus huddle.” Youths were assigned to groups of 10 or so youths from various parishes. These groups attended breakout sessions together and later reflected on the day’s messages. College-age Catholics – many of whom were DYMC members in high school — served as group leaders. Janet Friederichs, director of religious education for St. Andrew Parish in Blue Grass, said her youths benefitted from the groups. “They liked getting to talk to other kids, and they weren’t as intimidated to talk because they had college kids as leaders. It made them feel more comfortable.”
The day ended with Mass, celebrated by Bishop Martin Amos. He explained that the story of the woman at the well is the longest conversation with Jesus recorded in the Bible, “but there’s something more to this story. Just as the woman was thirsty for the living water, we are thirsty for the living water. Just as Jesus desired her love, he thirsts for our love. Just as the woman evangelized and brought others to the living water, we should evangelize.” To conclude his homily, he asked the youths, “What do we say to Jesus today? I hope it’s ‘I thirst: I thirst for you and the living water you promised us.’”
Youths’ reactions to the Junior High Youth Rally
“There is more to life than technology.”
“Jesus loves us no matter what. Fill yourself up with the goodness of God.”
“I learned to strengthen my relationship with Jesus and to take some time away from social media.”
“I like the huddle groups and getting to know new people.”
“I realized that Christ is way more important than electronics”
“I learned that you shouldn’t be afraid to show who you are in your religion”
“I need God in my life even if I don’t realize it.”