T-shirt cannons, rap, hip hop, electronic dance music, junior high students, Catholic schools, adoration, Mass, Holy Spirit and more rap. I’ll bet you’d never expect all that to be grouped together in a Catholic Messenger article.
Yes, you read that correctly. All of the above happened in the same day, and it was inspirational. Several Catholic schools (Oct. 20) and a handful of parishes from the Davenport Diocese (Oct. 21) sent students and chaperones to the Holy Fire Conference in Chicago. It was a day for sixth- through ninth-graders to get “Lit for the Lord” as rapper Joe Melendrez encouraged students to do all day long.
Each one-day conference started extra early for travelers and their fatigued bodies weren’t given much chance to sleep. Once they arrived, they were invited down near the stage to jump around for the rap stylings of Melendrez and his man at the turn tables, DJ 5 A.M.
“I liked how they were able to mix rap with songs about God,” said Bella from St. Boniface Parish, Farmington.
The music allowed students to let loose and enjoy the time with their friends. Their attention was captured immediately, allowing for the Holy Spirit to invite them to hear a deeper message of the day. One of the morning messages was from Sister Josephine Garrett, who pushed students by informing them that they “are the light that will set the world on fire!” Students then heard a witness talk by a young woman named Maya, who compared herself to the older brother in the parable of the Prodigal Son. She explained that she feels she has a strong faith.
Most people, she added, feel they relate to the younger brother. She told students it is OK to feel different and that everyone is loved by God.
Plenty of prayerful experiences occurred as well. Reconciliation was offered during lunch. The afternoon included adoration and Mass celebrated by Cardinal Blase Cupich, who leads the Archdiocese of Chicago. Steve Angrisano and the Holy Fire House Band provided music during adoration and Mass. The day ended as it began: more dancing and energized junior high students, setting forth to light the world on fire.
“I felt closer to God and felt more of his presence like never before,” said Maddie G. of St. Ann Parish, Long Grove. “Another thing that I liked was that I could relate to how some of the speakers felt before and it meant a lot knowing I wasn’t the only one that had felt this way. I had so much fun!”
The youths who participated from the Davenport Diocese came from these parishes: St. Ann, Long Grove; St. Joseph, DeWitt; St. Paul the Apostle, Davenport; Ss. Mary & Mathias, Muscatine; Holy Family, Fort Madison; St. Mary, West Point; St. John, Houghton; and St. Boniface, Farmington. Participating youth ministers included Pat Sheil, Tommy Fallon, Luke Ebener, Mike Linnenbrink and Julia Jones.
The youth ministers already have high expectations for next year and are excited to spread the flames to other students.
(Julia Jones is a youth minister at St. Ann Parish in Long Grove.)