Local Youth & young adult

Junior high youth rally hosts 200 at Prairie Star

From left, Garrett Foster, Vince Herold, Lydia Reynolds, Claire Hollis, Nina Bolts, Colleen Schroeber and Sofia Gometz enjoy some foosball time. All belong to St. John Paul II Parish, Olathe, except Reynolds, who is a member of Sacred Heart, Shawnee. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JAY SOLDNER

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.

Emma Johnson, a parishioner of Holy Trinity Parish, Paola, lectors at the Mass celebrated by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann that concluded the junior high youth rally. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JAY SOLDNER

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.”

Left, performance painter Mike Debus creates an image of St. Joseph right before Mass at the junior high youth rally. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JAY SOLDNER

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.”

Above, Garrett Benny, director of youth ministry at Divine Mercy Parish in Gardner, leads a small group session at the scenic grounds of Prairie Star Ranch in Williamsburg. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JAY SOLDNER

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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About the author

Joe Bollig

Joe has been with The Leaven since 1993. He has a bachelor’s degree in communications and a master’s degree in journalism. Before entering print journalism he worked in commercial radio. He has worked for the St. Joseph (Mo.) News-Press and Sun Publications in Overland Park. During his journalistic career he has covered beats including police, fire, business, features, general assignment and religion. While at The Leaven he has been a writer, photographer and videographer. He has won or shared several Catholic Press Association awards, as well as Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara awards for mission coverage. He graduated with a certification in catechesis from a two-year distance learning program offered by the Maryvale Institute for Catechesis, Theology, Philosophy and Religious Education at Old Oscott, Great Barr, in Birmingham, England.

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