Four hundred junior high students rallied at the Gateway Center in Helena on October 29 for the annual CYC Junior High Rally. The youth in attendance represented 25 parishes from across the diocese, with participants from the Diocese of Great Falls-Billings also present.
The Junior High Rally is a diocesan youth event that has been running since the 1980’s, and is organized by the head of Diocesan Youth Ministry and Events Doug Tooke. The day-long rally pulls youth ministers and volunteers from around Montana to assist in the event, including Catholic Youth Coalition (CYC) Board members.
Upon arrival, the junior high participants were immediately met by these high school students serving on the CYC Board, who brought them into a variety of games. The Board members also helped at the rally for the rest of the day by leading small groups, organizing dances and prayers, and giving testimonies.
The rally focused on the tagline “Be a Saint,” and challenged the young people to realize their call to holiness through sessions, keynote speakers, and community building games.
“One of my favorite parts of the day was getting to meet everybody, and seeing how I can express what I feel about my faith around everyone, which you can’t necessarily do at school,” said Carissa, a 6th grader from Bozeman. “I think that this is important so that people know that there are people out there willing to listen and understand them; that they’re not alone.”
Fred Woelkers, a Great Falls native and the director of Catholic Youth Rural Outreach (CYRO), took to the stage to introduce the theme. He spoke about accepting the great mission of sainthood, and all of the joys that come from it. As the emcee for the rally, he also led the crowd in several activities and prayers throughout the day.
“These rallies always bring together such an open and extremely authentic Christ-centered community of young people,” Woelkers said. “They brought so much good energy, and I loved being able to watch them be open to God’s love and grace, and see their hunger. They want to be challenged and grow in their faith, and have a blast doing it. So it was very humbling to be present and aware of how God was moving through the day.”
In the afternoon, the group split into gender sessions, with the men meeting with Chris Hammen, the youth minister for St. Anthony’s andChrist the King in Missoula, and the ladies met with Raven Dryden and Shai Lafleur, the youth minister for St. Richard’s in Columbia Falls and the campus minister at University of Montana-Western, respectively. Both groups contained activities, talks, and time for reflection and discussion.
Several CYC Board members also gave keynote addresses to the rally: Emma Rausch of St. Mary’s in Helena and Aiden Patko of St. Mary Queen of Heaven Mission in Superior. They both shared a piece of their own faith journey, and how they have found their own call to be a saint.
When asked which part of the day he liked the most, Eli, an 8th grader from Great Falls, replied definitively, “All of them, especially when we talked about being a saint. They helped us learn more about our faith and how to get more involved.”
Fr. Christopher Lebsock joined the rally in the evening to celebrate mass. He outlined some of the challenges that present themselves to the faithful seeking sainthood, but that we have great comfort from our God
“Today we continue to establish that friendship with Jesus together. He gives himself to us in the Eucharist, a covenant of friendship, so we can work hard to be saints.”
The group then broke into family groups, where they were able to decompress and reflect on all of the activities and talks of the day. Here, all were invited to share of their experience and how they have felt the Lord calling them.
After that, the lights went down and the music came up as Jim and Jennifer Tucker led the rally in a dance to celebrate and close the rally.
“Junior High Rally is important because it gets middle school kids who may start to struggle in their beliefs and helps them grow,” said Katie, a 6th grader from Kalispell. “It helps us all know and follow God more.”