BELLEVUE – More than 200 middle-school youth from 30 parishes gathered March 10 for the Archdiocese of Seattle’s Junior High Rally, where speakers encouraged them to pursue their faith and a life of holiness.
“Be brave enough to make God your friend,” emcee Andrew Scott, a theology teacher at Seattle’s Bishop Blanchet High School, told a group of eighth- and ninth-grade students.
He discussed the impact fear can have on decision-making and told the youth to expect change when pursuing a relationship with God.
“It might not look like what you want,” Scott said, “but it’s going to be what you need, what you desire.”
The Junior High Rally, with the theme “Faithful and Fearless,” was held at Forest Ridge School of the Sacred Heart in Bellevue. The event included small group discussion, games and activities. Photo: Reiff Castillote
The rally, with the theme “Faithful and Fearless,” was held at Forest Ridge School of the Sacred Heart in Bellevue. Participants wore bright teal shirts imprinted with a verse from 1 Timothy: “Let no one have contempt for your youth, but set an example for those who believe, in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity.”
Grace Turner, a 14-year-old from St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Federal Way, said she enjoyed a prayer session that included videos of people in the archdiocese asking the youth to pray for the imprisoned and ill, for military families, couples preparing for marriage, and more.
The rally, Turner said, “was a really great experience. You got to connect to people with your same faith.”
Nick Shoen, the chief of staff for the archdiocese's Office of Vicar for Clergy, listens to youth from Immaculate Conception/Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parishes as they participate in his presentation on the different types of peer pressure. Photo: Reiff Castillote
Testimonies, games and prayer
During the daylong event, the youth attended breakout sessions by grade, where they listened to personal testimonies from guest speakers and participated in brainstorming activities. Session topics included how to identify and overcome peer pressure and how to pursue a life of virtue.
“How do I need to get rid of those things in my life that are holding me back in my faith?” emcee Diana Jorda, pastoral assistant for youth and young adult ministry at St. Anthony Parish in Renton, asked the participants.
In their group, sixth-graders discussed how even small acts of kindness can help them grow in virtue. “We don’t know how God is going to speak through us to another person,” noted Cassie Wolfe, a youth ministry volunteer at Our Lady Star of the Sea Parish in Bremerton.
A youth group gets into the group activities at the Junior High Rally. Photo: Reiff Castillote
The day also included games and activities with staff from CYO camps, breaks for parish small-group questions and reflection, and a half-hour prayer session where all grades came together in the gymnasium.
Led by praise and worship music and reflections from the emcees, the youth were encouraged to form groups with their parishes so that they could pray together as a community.
“The reality is, prayer works,” Scott said. “Can you imagine the power of a couple hundred people offering their hearts in worship?”
The Junior High Rally concluded with Mass celebrated by Auxiliary Bishop Eusebio Elizondo. Photo: Reiff Castillote
The rally concluded with Mass celebrated by Auxiliary Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, who told the youth that Jesus’ message to them is love. “That’s the only message,” the bishop said. “He will always be there to rescue you and keep you growing.”
The purpose of the rally, Bishop Elizondo said, was for the youth to perfect their hearts and minds, to be “faithful and fearless … like the saints.”
“With [Jesus], be fearless,” he said. “Without him, we’re in trouble.”
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