Middle school students rally for Christ

North Texas Catholic
(Mar 15, 2019) Local

Middle-schooler Jetzel Pando, of St. Ann Parish in Burleson, plays an instrument during an impromptu musical number with Kyle Heimann (right) and Dan Harms (left) of "Popple" during the annual Middle School Rally March 9. (NTC/Juan Guajardo) Photo Gallery

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FORT WORTH — Onstage, a lively duo armed with a guitar and ukulele invited middle-school students up alongside them to play fake instruments in front of a crowd of their cheering peers.

This camaraderie-building activity led up to the second of two keynote talks given by speakers and musicians Kyle Heimann and Dan Harms, at the annual diocesan Middle School Rally.

The Middle School Rally, put together by Diocesan Director of Youth Ministry Jason Spoolstra, was held all day at Nolan Catholic High School March 9, and featured speakers, musicians, Mass, and Adoration for the roughly 250 sixth- to eighth-grade participants from 23 parishes across the diocese.

“The first point is to gather the middle-schoolers,” Spoolstra said. “There are so many things available for high-schoolers throughout the year. We want to give the youth an opportunity to experience their faith and to experience Christ for a day, for just the middle-schoolers.”

Spoolstra invited traveling speakers from “Popple,” Heimann and Harms, to speak about and engage the youth in activities surrounding the event’s theme of divine mercy, and according to Harms, “tailor a serious message in a fun way which matches where the kids are.”

“I think [the middle school students] were a lot of fun,” Harms said. “They were very quick to volunteer their friends. There was a lot of that, more so than usual, which is nice, and indicative that they really know each other. They were nice, super enthusiastic, really good-natured, and fun.”

The “comedic-acoustic-fun-loving music” ministers paired Scripture with personal anecdotes — some humorous — to share God’s message of mercy with the students. The duo also noted that most middle school students are characteristically more eager to participate than high school students, among other small distinctions, which adds to the importance of middle school only events.

Middle-schoolers share how they've experienced God's mercy in their lives during small group sessions at the annual Middle School Rally March 9. (NTC/Juan Guajardo)

Both speakers find it useful to give middle school students a chance to engage in their faith through rallies.

“I think it’s extremely important [to have middle school specific rallies],” Heimann said. “The way that they interact with each other and the way that they understand the faith… It opens up a lot of opportunities and you can minister to them where they are on their faith journey and help bring them to the next level.”

Harms added, “It’s an age-range where they are really starting to establish their worldview in a lot of ways, and the foundation of it…. In middle school, if we can get them to see the beauty and the joy and excitement that comes from our faith, that serves them tremendously well as they continue to grow and establish their identity and faith life, particularly over the next four years.”

The event started about 12 years ago with Spoolstra’s predecessor, and has changed substantially since. Although it was once held in parishes, this year it was held at Nolan Catholic High School, and featured Adoration immediately after Mass.

As the Middle School Youth Rally is the biggest middle-school event of the year, Spoolstra wanted the event to feel special for the participants by having it take place in a larger venue and to expose them to Catholic schooling in “what could be, maybe, their future home as a Catholic high school.”

“We try to hit the main points of the Good News in allowing our young people to have a space just for them to be able to embrace who they are as a beloved child of God, where they can hear from amazing speakers, great musicians, and have Mass together,” Spoolstra explained.

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