Archdiocesan consultant Kimberly Rode will speak to tens of thousands of youth at World Youth Day in Sydney, Australia
by Jane Graves
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Most of those making presentations at this upcoming World Youth Day from July 15-20 in Sydney, Australia, will be bishops, archbishops and cardinals.
And then there will be the archdiocese’s own Kimberly Rode.
It’s a special honor when a layperson is asked to speak at a prominent world forum like World Youth Day, explained Dana Nearmyer, Rode’s supervisor and coordinator of evangelization and Catholic formation for the archdiocese. Laypeople who are asked to address the tens of thousands of teens and young adults who generally attend these events are usually considered experts in their field.
Needless to say, Nearmyer said, “We’re really thrilled that Kimberly got asked to present.”
Rode, who is archdiocesan consultant for youth and young adults, was invited onto the World Youth Day stage by her mentor, Dr. Mary Shivanandan, professor of theology at the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and the Family at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. Rode had worked closely with Shivanandan in the preparation of the archdiocesan For Me and My House anti-pornography program, which drew on Shivanandan’s work.
When Shivanandan was asked to speak at World Youth Day on the work of Imago Dei — an educational organization in which both of the women participate — she was unable to do so, and asked Rode to speak in her stead. Shivanandan is on the board of directors for Imago Dei, whose mission is to evangelize on the Catholic meaning of marriage and sexuality, particularly as it was articulated in the writings of Pope John Paul II. Rode is the representative for the Midwest.
Rode said she felt doubly honored by the request: first, by the fact that Shivanandan had that much confidence in her abilities, and second, at the opportunity to share Pope John Paul II’s message.
“My hero, in all of life and the spiritual life especially, is John Paul II,” said Rode, “and just to help him and his mission to become more popular, and more known and understood and loved, is more than I ever dreamed I’d be asked to do. So it’s a big honor.”
Rode will make the same two-hour presentation on three separate days during the World Youth Day events.
Her presentation “will be an overview of the theology of the body and how to popularize [Pope John Paul II’s] teaching on the dignity of the human person, love, and our responsibilities — including our sexuality and our relationships for others, and how he outlined how we can build a civilization of love,” said Rode.
She said this is important for all Catholics, but youth may be especially interested because “young adults and teenagers are really at a point in life where they’re looking for basically the meaning of life and love and relationships and seeking out some understanding on their human experience.”
“Kids are making decisions every single day about their sexuality and about the template that they have for creating relationships. And we want them to have a relationship where they build relationships of the soul before they’re building physical relationships.”
“We want them to be able to create templates of love in their hearts,” he added, “so that they’re set up to participate in rich marriage situations and not walk into a marriage relationship with really broken and fractured hearts.”
For more information about Imago Dei, visit its Web site at: www.imagodeitob.org.