Speaker helps teens get off the ‘emotocoaster’ at Emporia youth event
by Katie Hyde
EMPORIA — Nearly 50 teens braved 30-degree weather and the imminent threat of a blizzard to attend the Re-New Year Heart retreat Jan. 4 at Sacred Heart Parish here.
The retreat, which was coordinated by the archdiocesan youth office in conjunction with Sacred Heart Parish, was a daylong celebration of faith that included music, discussions of emotional virtue, eucharistic adoration, and Mass.
“There are lot of obstacles that are put before us,” said Angie Bittner, archdiocesan rural youth outreach coordinator. “When kids and adult leaders make an effort to get the kids there and try to increase their faith, it is so exciting. That’s what this ministry is about.”
Bittner coordinated with Sacred Heart director of religious education Linda DeDonder to plan the event. After hosting a similar retreat for youth last year, DeDonder contacted Bittner about cohosting a second event.
“So many great events happen in the Kansas City area, our purpose is to bring the Gospels and Catholic values to our teens in the Southern Region,” DeDonder said. “The regional retreat is a great example of the archdiocese supporting rural parishes and bringing teens together to celebrate our faith in Christ.”
The evening, which included music by the Jesse Elpers Band from Wichita, featured as its main speaker Sarah Swafford, a graduate of Benedictine College in Atchison and now director of special projects for Catholic identity there.
Swafford is also the founder of Emotional Virtue Ministries, devoted to understanding the ups and downs of teen life and focusing particularly on how emotional virtue can help teens avoid what she terms “The Emotocoaster.”
By understanding how their behavior affects others and by striving to be virtuous and confident, Swafford maintains, teens can enjoy lives with less drama and more happiness.
“My job,” she explains bluntly, “is to make virtue sexy again.
“[Teens are] so hungry for the truth and for a life without drama.
“And they may not know it, but [also] for a life with Our Lord. Teens can smell it when you’re fake, so I try to be authentic and truthful.”
Swafford’s quick acceptance of the invitation to speak at Re-New Year Heart came courtesy of her small-town roots.
“I know what it’s like to be a small-town Kansas teen,” Swafford said. “I’ll do anything I can to help these kids.”
The teens who attended Re-New Year Heart certainly got the message.
“It made me realize that no matter who you are, you’re good enough for God,” said Maranda Scheller, a 14-year-old from Olpe High School who attended the event. “It doesn’t matter if some guy doesn’t like you.”
“A lot of kids don’t try very hard to get close to God, but this made it easy to talk to him,” she said.