BELLEVUE – High school volunteers and a life-size cutout of Pope Francis greeted more than 400 middle-schoolers at “Soul on Fire,” the Archdiocese of Seattle’s annual Junior High Rally.
Clad in bright-orange T-shirts, youth from around the archdiocese gathered March 11 for a day full of prayer and worship, workshops and inspirational speakers.
“Listen to God today. There is unconditional love that God has for everyone,” said adult keynote speaker Diana Jorda, pastoral assistant for youth and young adult ministry at St. Anthony Parish in Renton. Jorda encouraged the young people to “be you” and love who they are, because that is who God has called them to be.
The crowd at the Junior High Rally. Photo Janis Olson
The rally, held at Forest Ridge School of the Sacred Heart in Bellevue, was sponsored by the archdiocesan Office for Youth and Young Adult Evangelization.
The event drew participants like seventh-grader Isabel Ho, who said her parents actually signed her up for the rally. Although she wasn’t sure what to expect, she quickly decided: “It’s cool.”
“Everyone was super-energetic and happy to be here,” said Elaine Shioyama of St. Anthony Parish in Renton, who said she enjoyed meeting other Catholic kids her age at her second rally.
Before the Junior High Rally speakers took the stage, emcee Aires Patulot led a prayer for them. Photo: Janis Olson
Before the speakers took the stage, emcee Aires Patulot (a campus minister at Kennedy Catholic High School in Burien) led a prayer for them. He was joined by high school volunteers and stage manager Kelsey Harrington, also a member of the Kennedy Catholic campus ministry team.
In his speech, Jack Hobeisel of Holy Redeemer Parish in Vancouver described helping a nurse save a driver after a serious car accident. But Hobeisel struggled with the trauma of not being able to save more lives. The experience, he told the gathering, inspired him to want to become a nurse (rather than a doctor), and continue to have faith in God.
“Trust God, because he is the only one who truly knows you,” Hobeisel said.
High school volunteers lead a song at the Junior High Rally. Photo: Janis Olson
Throughout the day, high school volunteers ushered the middle-school students from workshop to workshop, helped workshop leaders and assisted at the rally’s concluding Mass. Ninth-grader Mary Holznecht from St. Cecilia Parish in Stanwood volunteered because she attended the rally as a middle-schooler and enjoys meeting new people who share her faith.
Harrington, the stage manager, has worked on the archdiocese’s high school rally since she was a college freshman. She enjoys the rallies, Harrington said, because they demonstrate to kids the unity of the church and its wide reach.
“I think sometimes they get stuck in their own parish and not realize that their faith is so much bigger than that,” Harrington said. “It shows that being Catholic is fun and it can be cool.”