From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Catholic Youth Celebration embraces a ‘Guiding Light’

by Bonita Lawhead, Inland Register staff

(From the March 20, 2003 edition of the Inland Register)

Catholic Youth Celebration 2003 is about to launch. The diocese’s major youth event is scheduled for Friday-Sunday, March 21-23, at Gonzaga Prep, 1224 E. Euclid, Spokane. This year’s theme is “Guiding Light, CYC 2003.”

Among those scheduled for weekend appearances is Bishop Skylstad.

Joining him will be two nationally recognized names in youth ministry: Vince Nims, “The Roamin’ Catholic Banana Guy,” is returning to Spokane. Making his first appearance in the city will be Bob Perron, who calls himself the “Stooge for Christ.”

Nims and Perron are the keynote speakers.

Diocesan youth ministry consultant Paul Mach is directing his second CYC and has his sights set on a registration of 800 people. Registration has held steady the past several years at about 600.

Mach sees the CYC as a “chance to gather youth from the diocese in a way to help them experience that church is bigger than just their parish. It’s Christian community building,” he said, which connects students with other students.

The teens “also get an opportunity to develop leadership, and it helps them keep faith into adulthood and college,” said Mach. He said he often gets calls from college students asking if they can come back.

Bob Perron has been billing himself as a “Stooge for Christ” for about five years. “This wasn’t anything I’d ever planned,” he said. He shaved his head one time, and someone pointed out his resemblance to Curly, one of the Three Stooges. An office poll of the two men’s pictures revealed that about half his co-workers didn’t know which was Bob and which was Curly.

“I didn’t want to be known as a stooge,” he said. “But my practical wife said, ‘Let’s look up “stooge” in the dictionary.’ One definition is that of a person of unquestioning obedience. In praying about it, I realized we should all be called stooges” – unquestioningly obedient to God.

Perron is not a stand-up comic in the sense of tossing off one-liners. He finds comedy in everyday, ordinary situations, and uses it to make his point. “I use comedy the way musicians use music, to get the kids connected. The message is way beyond the music.” Perron believes that comedy, like music, is a universal language.

He has been a full-time youth minister and Director of Religious Education since 1984, and currently works in Des Moines, Iowa. He figures he has talked to between 150,000-200,000 young people around the country. He is looking forward to his first visit to Spokane.

Nims, the other keynote speaker, returns “by popular demand.” He has been in Spokane twice before, at Junior High Faith Day in 1998 and at the CYC in 2001. Participants “really enjoyed him,” Mach said. “And he enjoyed them. They seemed to fit well with each other.”

Nims calls San Jose, Calif., home. He is a disc jockey and recording artist and a former diocesan youth minister. His most singular honor was being selected to be a musician for World Youth Day in Toronto last year.

In his presentations, Nims usually follows the theme of the conference, in this case, “Guiding Light.” He said he tries to make his presentations as interactive as possible by calling teens up on stage, using Powerpoint, sharing his life experiences and playing music to make his point. The ultimate objective is, he said, “to serve the Gospel.” Even though he travels a lot, he finds working with youth a “good ministry.” He said that Spokane youth in particular have “a lot of energy.”

Why does Nims called himself the “Banana Guy”? He said it comes from an old campfire song called “I Like Bananas,” which he has used to talk about “God’s sweet love.”

The CYC’s other workshops will address important issues, from knowing the Catholic faith to learning about people who are the poorest of the poor.

Here’s a quick look at workshops and presenters.

• Dan Glatt is Youth Minister at Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Spokane, and has worked with youth for 17 years. His workshop is titled “Light to the Third World.” Those attending will have “a hands-on experience” of what it’s like to be a young person in one of the five poorest countries of the world. The participants will be given biographical cards, and then will have to make choices about how they will survive.

For example, one student’s biography might read: “Mother has HIV; father has disappeared; there are five children in the family.” Students will then receive other cards that give them choices about what they must do.

Glatt wants to help students learn “about hope and what can we do. It’s also connecting them with the larger church.”

For the past 11 years, Glatt has taken young people to Mexico to help missionaries working with the poor build houses and other structures. He said they are planning trip no. 12 this summer.

• Movies are an important part of teen life and Father Tom Caswell’s workshop will focus on ways to make effective use of today’s films in faith-building conversations. “It’s basically showing how a film addresses the ethical and moral aspects of contemporary issues,” Father Caswell said, “and how that can be meaningful for discussion.”

Father Caswell, who is pastor of St. Rose of Lima Parish in Cheney and Ecumenical Relations Officer for the Diocese of Spokane, presented a similar workshop at the Catholic Education Conference last fall. He also writes reviews of movies and other current media for the Inland Register and the Cheney Free Press.

• Angela Exner has been Director of Religious Education and Youth Minister at St. Patrick Parish in Colfax since last fall. She will help teens take a look at chastity.

Her presentation is titled “Dating in Today’s Society.” She says there is not a lot of “actual dating” these days. “It’s more about connections. We’ll talk about the realities of what dating is, about self-esteem and about asking the question: ‘Do I like who I am?’”

Chastity has to do with self-respect, she said, and how people respect themselves and others.

• Nick Wavers is a Youth Minister in the Diocese of Baker, Oregon. His presentation is titled “Who Do You Think You Are?” The workshop will focus on teens’ identity as Catholics. “It’s a conscious questioning of ‘why am I Catholic,’” Wavers said. “We rarely question our faith and I want to create an environment that will help people become more acquainted with (it). I hope to leave them with enough material to do research on their own.”

Wavers has been a youth minister for seven years, the last three in Baker.

• Bishop Skylstad’s workshop is being billed as “A Chat with the Bishop,” and will be done in an informal question and answer style. Mach said the format was left open so that the bishop and participants can discuss whatever issues are of importance to them. By doing it that way, he said, “We want to build a relationship between the bishop and teens.”

• Another workshop is titled “Labyrinth Prayer Experience.” To pray using a labyrinth is an ancient practice, and participants will be self-guided with many different forms and stations being used.

Mach said the Diocesan Youth Council planned the CYC. The council chose two young people, Katie Bloom and Zach Savage, to be emcees. Both are seniors, Bloom at Assumption and Savage at Gonzaga Prep.

The roots of the Catholic Youth Celebration sink more than 25 years into diocesan history.

What Mach thinks may be the first such celebration was held in March 1977, a one-day affair for Catholic youth directed by David Biviano. The late Bishop Lawrence Welsh came to talk to students and offer Mass for the 100 persons in attendance that first year. Three years later the event had expanded to three days

For the first time, the diocese is offering on-line registration at the new and expanded diocesan From there click on Evangelization, then on Parish Services, then on Youth Ministry.

(For more information about the CYC, check the diocesan website or call the Parish Services Office: (509) 358-7311.)

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