Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

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 helps teens connect on their faith journey

by Sarah Cohen, for the Inland Register

(From the April 10, 2008 edition of the Inland Register)

“I’m a weary traveler, but I’m going to rest my soul in God this weekend.”

More than 300 high school students from throughout the diocese and beyond listened as Vince Nims, keynote speaker for the 2008 Catholic Youth Celebration (CYC), encouraged them to pray this prayer.

March 14-16 were three days of fun and fellowship for these students, but even more important, they were days of reflection upon the journey of faith traveled by each Christian.

The theme of the 2008 CYC was “Our Journey: Don’t Stop Believing,” based on Peter 3:13-18. The event at Gonzaga Preparatory School encouraged Catholic teens to acknowledge the obstacles to their faith and reaffirm their beliefs – to never stop believing in the message of a loving God.

“This event – all the themes – were outlined very well,” said Nims, who speaks at youth rallies, conferences and faith formation events around the country, including his third appearance at World Youth Day, this summer in Australia.

He said that the Spokane Diocese’s CYC “has all the right pieces. It’s been loved into what it is. You can tell by the planning and by the team all the work they put into this.”

The CYC is organized by the Diocesan Youth Council, a team of high school and college students, as well as adult volunteers, from around the diocese.

“Sometimes retreats can seem like they’re for little kids, but this is very teen-oriented,” said Dani Hall, 14, a freshman at DeSales High School, in Walla Walla, who was attending CYC for the first time.

For John Clizer, 18, a senior at Clarkston High School who attends Holy Family Parish in Clarkston, CYC was an inspirational experience.

“I’ve been a Catholic only a few years,” Clizer said. “This is the first time I’ve been at an event like this. You can tell people really believe. It’s not just routine, they’re not just raised with it, but they really believe.”

Several students said that the speakers, Nims and Brad Henning, were their favorite parts of the weekend.

“I like that they both really knew what they were talking about, and they know how to get us interested in it – they didn’t lecture,” said Celeste Flock, 16, a sophomore at Clarkston High School.

Nims, popularly known as the “Roamin’ Catholic Banana Guy” – dubbed the “Banana Dude” by several students at the 2008 CYC – led the students in singing fun and moving songs. He also discussed topics relating the “Our Journey” theme, such as prioritizing God, letting God carry the burdens that life can bring, and sharing God’s gifts with others.

Several students said that they appreciated how Nims took his real-life experiences and related them to his spiritual life. One story mentioned by multiple students was Nims’ account of meeting his natural father – of knocking on his door, waiting for him to open it and hugging him for the first time. At that moment, Nims said he recognized the “years of pain and secrets” he had carried.

“Don’t carry burdens by yourself,” Nims told the students. “Carry your load to God. Knock on that door, and wait for God to open that door and say come in. You won’t wait long, and he’ll put his arms around you.”

Nims also emphasized the importance of community and neither walking the journey of faith alone nor without being grounded in Truth.

“Why do people feel alone? They choose to be alone,” he said. “That can’t be us. We believe in community. In fact, one of the most important prayers we pray at Mass begins, ‘We believe.’” The students picked up the prayer from there, filling the Gonzaga Prep gym with the words of the Nicene Creed. When they finished, Nims continued, “We never say ‘I,’ That is something that makes us different, something that makes us unique as Catholics.”

Henning’s time with students centered on guy-girl relationships. In his first session, Henning defined love as “choosing the highest good for the other person.” It’s not an emotion, a feeling, a ditch (in other words, a person can’t fall in it) or sex, he said. True love comes from knowing a person’s true character and is demonstrated through actions.

Henning talked about the differences between guys and girls, how real love looks, and the importance of abstinence until marriage.

He said that during the talk, boys and girls can see each other’s reactions and realize that what he’s saying is actually true.

“Kids don’t instantly believe adults and what they say about sex,” Henning said. But they seemed to listen at CYC.

“He spoke like he was our age,” said Kirsey Sunderland-Herrin, 16, a junior at Dayton High School who attends St. Joseph Parish, also in Dayton. “He didn’t speak down to us.”

Katrina Boik, 13, a home-schooled student from St. Joseph Parish in Otis Orchards, said she found Henning’s talk interesting and that he brought up a lot of things she hadn’t considered.

Maria McCauley, 13, also of St. Joseph in Otis Orchards, said, “When he said love wasn’t a feeling, I hadn’t thought about it [before], but it’s true.”

Henning later had a session with the male students about creative dating and a question-and-answer session with the female students about understanding guys.

Although the 2008 CYC included thought-provoking and spiritual conversations, worship, prayer, and even Mass with Bishop William Skylstad on Sunday, the weekend also included time for the students to simply have fun together.

Saturday afternoon offered a talent show, and later that evening there was a dance, a three-on-three basketball tournament and inflatable games. Each general assembly included ice breakers, an “Amazing Race” skit performed by the DYC, and exchanging warm fuzzies, strips of yarn that students wear around their necks.

“The fuzzies are a very ingenious idea, so you can approach people in a nonthreatening way and get to meet Catholics from all different places you normally wouldn’t,” said Katie Uptagrafft, 15, a sophomore at Asotin High School who attends Holy Family Parish in Clarkston. “I think it’s a beautiful idea.”

The annual CYC also offers the opportunity to acknowledge outstanding students, youth ministers and ministry programs throughout the diocese. This year, Kyle Miller, of Walla Walla, and Bri Fischer, of Pullman, both received the St. Timothy Award for their Christian youth leadership. Walla Walla’s Tri-Parish Youth Program, which includes middle and high school youth ministry, was recognized with the Celebrate Youth Award for its outstanding program of Christian youth formation and service. Receiving For God and For Youth awards were Mary Beltran and John and Sandra Hanses, all of St. Patrick Parish in Pasco, for their dedicated service to youth ministry.

The 2008 CYC gave the high school youth of the Spokane Diocese the opportunity to grow in community, to grow in knowledge and to grow in faith. Many thanks are due to the DYC and to all others who made this event possible. Thanks to their efforts, we can trust that the 2008 CYC played an important role in the faith journeys of many students.

Sponsors for the 2008 Catholic Youth Celebration:

Dale and Yvonne Anderson • Arby’s Restaurants Spokane • Deacon Jim Barrow • Robert Bengert • Breshears Photography • Rich and MaryAnn Breshears • Bruce and Judy Butler • Colville Knights of Columbus Council #12273 • Catholic Daughters Court 2104, Pullman • Bob and Mary Jo Fontenot • David and Connie Goude • Art and Norma Griff • Eclipse Heating and Cooling LLC • Terry and Maureen Hall • Jim and Judy Harvey • Steve and Cathy Haxton • Don and Sharon Hovley • Integrity Design & Copyworks of Walla Walla • James and Kathleen Kestell • Jerry and Lenore Manuel • Meyer’s Hardware and The Bean Counter • Thomas and Cece Meyers • St. Genevieve Parish Altar Society, Twisp • Parishioners of St. Genevieve Parish, Twisp • St. Patrick Parish, Pasco • Sister Helen Mason SP • Sisters of Providence, Mother Joseph Province • Rob and Kathy Moore • Dick and Louise St. Hilaire • Thomas and Gail Stevenson • Joe and Mary Terhaar • Dan and Annette Tompkins • Peak Fitness Physical Therapy • Michael Van Pevenage, RPT • William and Eileen Wolford • Joe and Donna Wujek

“We also had many anonymous donors and benefactors,” said Jackie Keyes, youth minister at St. Patrick Parish, Pasco, and lead organizer for the event. “People were so very generous in supporting this ministry by and for our youth. We’re all very, very grateful.”

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