by Ellie Melero
WILLIAMSBURG — After days of rain, parishioners young and old from the southern part of the archdiocese gathered at Prairie Star Ranch here to celebrate their faith and the end of summer.
The “Start a Fire” Southern Region youth and family rally was held Aug. 18. In addition to games, food and Mass, the rally featured two talks by Noelle Garcia.
Garcia is a recording artist and speaker who shares her struggles with depression with her audiences and also talks about keeping faith during times of suffering.
Garcia’s message, interwoven with accounts of her own life experiences, was that suffering gives people an opportunity to grow.
“[Suffering] can bring out the best of us,” she said, “make saints of us. But we need that fire of the Holy Spirit.”
Garcia talked about the story of Jesus bringing Lazarus back from the dead, and how through that and Jesus’ own resurrection, Jesus shows death is not the end. She said in times of suffering, God is giving people an opportunity to trust him even more.
“The biggest thing is trusting that God has not abandoned us,” Garcia said. “A lot of times when we go through something hard, we think that he’s far away and he’s just left us and he doesn’t care about what we’re going through.
“But he is all present, all the time.”
Anna Schuckman, a member of the Northeast Kansas Rural Youth Council who helped plan the rally, said she enjoyed listening to Garcia speak.
She said hearing Garcia’s stories of struggle and how they led her to a deeper relationship with God was inspirational.
“It’s really inspiring,” Schuckman said, “to see how she lives her life and gives it all to God. And she travels so much just in his name. She’s just reminded me to lay it all down and give it to him.”
Damian Foster, an attendee of the rally, said Garcia’s talks helped him put parts of his life into perspective.
“It’s definitely made me see life a lot different,” Foster said. “God is in control of your life, and you can lose it in a matter of seconds, so don’t take it for granted.”
Angie Bittner, the rural youth ministry outreach coordinator, said she invited Garcia to speak because she was a new voice for people to listen to, and she thought Garcia did a good job.
Bittner said the hope of “Start a Fire” was to teach people how Christ is alive in their lives and how to grow in their faith in him.
Garcia, said Bittner, was the perfect person to deliver that message.
“She’s someone that I’ve wanted to bring in for a while,” Bittner said. “I hope every parishioner understands what it means to have a beautiful relationship with the Lord that stirs their hearts to love him more and to serve others and love other people better.”
Garcia said she was happy to come to the rally and hopes people were able to take something away from listening to her speak.
“I hope that they’re just reinvigorated to start up their relationship with God again if maybe it’s been kind of on the back burner,” Garcia said. “Or maybe just continue realizing its importance in their life, their family’s life and, ultimately, in the world.”