Middle school youth ‘fire up’ their faith at annual rally

By Jacqueline Burkepile


North Texas Catholic

This year the theme, "Fired Up Faith," focused on encouraging hundreds of middle schoolers from across the diocese to share their faith and love for Christ with others. Photo by Juan Guajardo/NTC

More than 500 middle school youth from across the Diocese of Fort Worth shared a day of prayer, worship, and games at the second annual Middle School Youth Rally Saturday, Feb. 16 at Most Blessed Sacrament Church in Arlington.

The day began with community building activities and games in the gym and parish hall. Bounce houses, bronco riding, sumo-wrestling, and other teen activities gave youth the opportunity to bond with their peers in preparation for a day of spiritual enrichment.

Larry West, middle school youth minister at Good Shepherd Church in Colleyville, coordinated the rally. Speaking of the rally and its diversity of “fun” activities, West said, “All the ‘fun’ we have on earth is only a reflection of the joy we will all experience in heaven.  When I see inflatables, I don’t just see something that draws kids to the event; I see something that, if channeled properly, draws kids to heaven. There is nothing like a little wholesome fun.”

Following introductory festivities, the youth had the opportunity to listen to speakers, ask questions, and pray in adoration of the Eucharist. Featured keynote speakers included Apex Ministries’ Brad Farmer and Gene Monterastelli of Casper, Wyoming, and Perpetual Motion Ministries’ Scott Dougherty of Gainesville and Tony Vasinda of Edmonds, Washington. Each of the ministries centered their presentations on the theme “Fired Up Faith,” inspiring and encouraging youth to put their faith into action through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Apex ministries used their juggling and comedy skills to lead middle-schoolers to holiness, inspiring them with messages of hope. “You were made for greatness. You were created to be nothing less than a saint,” Farmer said, as he concluded one of the presentations Saturday afternoon.

Monterastelli told the North Texas Catholic he wanted the youth to take from their presentations the idea that, “God is calling them right here, right now in every action they make to be models of Christ’s love in this world.

“It is not just something for priests and nuns, or for when they grow up,” he said. “They are called right now to do that in a very special way.”

The lead facilitators for the day were Tony Vasinda and Scott Dougherty of Perpetual Motion Ministries. Within their interactive presentations to inspire the youth to take their faith out into the world, they built candles with the middle schoolers to bring the theme “Fired Up Faith” to life.

Dougherty wanted the youth know they are special, unique, and called by God to do great things in the world. He wants them to set the world on fire for faith.

“They have a piece of that fire inside of themselves that we see representing Christ at Easter in the Paschal Candle; that holiness — that special call we receive at Baptism to become priest, prophet, and King to the world; sanctifying, holding the world accountable, and leading others to create the Kingdom of God on earth.”

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Additional presenters included Paul and Danielle Bianchi, focusing on the topic of modesty among young men and women. Other presenters were Michael Waldon, Scott and Kathy Lawson, and Sam and Melissa Perez, focusing on service, evangelization, and prayer. The day concluded with Mass celebrated by Father Jonathan McElhone, TOR, of Good Shepherd.

Parents, chaperones, and youth said the rally was a great experience. Parent and chaperone Elaine Nolting of Holy Cross Church in The Colony said her daughter went to the rally last year and was ecstatic to come back again. She enjoys seeing the fruits that flow from this event.

“It’s just very fulfilling for me to see these kids excited about being Catholic and about seeing the Spirit move within them,” said Nolting. “It fills me up to watch them grow in their faith.”

Eighth-grader Martina Ricca of St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Arlington said the rally helped her learn more about her faith.

“I’ve become a lot closer to God and I realize that He listens when I talk,” said Ricca. “He really understands what I’m going through and that everything I do has purpose.”

Parent and Chaperone Gary Endres of Sacred Heart Parish in Muenster hoped his child would learn good points for everyday life and how to build relationships in a good, Catholic way. “I hope that it teaches these kids to see that it’s cool to live your faith, not just in sports or something like that,” said Endres. “It’s cool to live your religion.”

More than 500 middle school youth from across the Diocese of Fort Worth shared a day of prayer, worship, and games at the second annual Middle School Youth Rally Saturday, Feb. 16 at Most Blessed Sacrament Church in Arlington.