by Joe Bollig
WILLIAMSBURG — For the current crop of junior high students, the past 14 months under pandemic conditions have been a time of isolation, canceled events and separation from friends.
But approximately 200 youths had a chance to get past that, if only for a day, at an archdiocesan junior high youth rally on Feb. 28 at Prairie Star Ranch in Williamsburg. The rally was sponsored by the archdiocesan office of youth evangelization.
“I missed it so much since COVID started — being around people and being able to connect with them,” said Katherine St. Marie, a seventh grader at Holy Trinity School in Paola.
The rally had the Mikey Needleman Band playing praise and worship music; speed painting by Mike Debus; inspirational talks, games and activities; and a Mass celebrated by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann.
“I feel like [the organizers] did a really good job of engaging the kids,” said Rose Lopez, an eighth grader from Curé of Ars School in Leawood.
“It was something that kept me on the edge of my seat. I wanted to hear more speakers,” Lopez said. “I wanted to hear more life stories and background stories — how these speakers found their faith, how their faith plays a role in their lives. It helped me understand and see my faith more clearly.”
For St. Marie, one of the most interesting things that day was watching Debus paint.
“I think he’s really amazing,” she said. “He was incredible”
Debus quickly transformed a blank canvas into a picture of St. Joseph holding the infant child Jesus.
“It was one of those moments when I was in awe,” she said.
St. Marie also liked the speakers.
“I liked how the people opened up and talked about their lives,” she said. “It was super cool.”
Kaycee SinghDhillon, an eighth grade student at St. Marys Junior High in St. Marys, liked the music and the opportunities for prayer. She also learned a lesson from the story of the disciples Jesus met on the road to Emmaus after his resurrection.
“We learned about our different spiritual journeys and what we can do to make them better,” she said.
The next junior high youth rally will be on March 21 at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Seneca.
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