Local Youth & young adult

On fire with faith

From left, Michael, Julio and Emilio enjoy making s’mores at a bonfire at the close of the confirmation rally. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JILL RAGAR ESFELD

Wyandotte County youth prepare for confirmation with a bonfire rally

by Jill Ragar Esfeld

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Imagine over 100 teenagers descending on a parking lot for a bonfire rally on Halloween Eve.

Could anything go wrong?

Not when the Holy Spirit is added to the mix.

That was the case when ReachKCK, a youth ministry serving 12 parishes throughout Wyandotte County, hosted a Confirmation Rally Bonfire for young Catholics throughout the area.

Indeed, more than 150 teenagers participated in this celebration of sacramental preparation and community.

“Here in Wyandotte County,” said ReachKCK director Jessica Cabral, “we have a two-year program for confirmation sacramental prep.

“Some of the students might be beginning their second year and some might be beginning their first year. So, we had a little bit of a mix here.”

ReachKCK director Jessica Cabral encouraged youth during their time in eucharistic adoration to talk with Jesus and take advantage of the opportunity to receive the sacrament of reconciliation. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JILL RAGAR ESFELD

The youth were given an opportunity to experience eucharistic adoration and receive the sacrament of reconciliation before sharing fellowship while roasting marshmallows and making s’mores.

“For me,” said Cabral, “it’s a time when these young adults are confirming that they believe in this faith. It’s just them becoming grown-up Catholics, in a way.”

God knows you

The bonfire rally began in the Blessed Sacrament Parish gym in Kansas City, Kansas, where speakers prepared the young people for eucharistic adoration — a devotion many had never experienced before.

For many in attendance at ReachKCK’s confirmation bonfire rally, it was their first time participating in eucharistic adoration. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JILL RAGAR ESFELD

Joe Passantino, minister for young adults at Church of the Ascension in Overland Park, assured the youth that “God knows each of you better than you know yourself; he knows every hair on your head.

“So, you can imagine if someone knows you that well, they care about you way more than you would think.”

Passantino told stories and gave meaningful demonstrations to illustrate God’s love and Jesus’ desire to show these young confirmands a path to that love.

He described eucharistic adoration as a time to simply be with Jesus.

Young adult minister Joe Passantino talks to those gathered at ReachKCK’s confirmation rally. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JILL RAGAR ESFELD

“You’re staring at Jesus,” he said. “And it’s basically like Jesus sitting down and staring back at you.

“And he’s not talking to you with words out loud, but he’s talking to your heart.”

Passantino was followed by Rick Cheek, consultant for the archdiocesan office of evangelization and Catholic formation for youth.

He asked the teens to sit quietly and think about what they wanted from Jesus that day.

Rick Cheek, consultant for the archdiocesan office of evangelization and Catholic formation for youth, asks Gigi, “What do you want Jesus to do for you today?” LEAVEN PHOTO BY JILL RAGAR ESFELD

Many teens volunteered to share their thoughts, which included care for their family members, as well as peace and strength for themselves.

“God loves you,” he told them. “God has a desire to have a relationship with you, and he wants you to know that any time you need anything, just say, ‘Lord Jesus, help me.’

“God knows what you need; all you have to do is ask.”

Spending time with Jesus

Father Joel Haug, chaplain of Bishop Ward High School in Kansas City, Kansas, greeted the young people in the church for eucharistic adoration, explaining the process of placing the consecrated host in the monstrance.

“It’s going to look like a piece of bread,” he said. “But it’s actually Jesus.

“After I put Jesus in the monstrance, I’m going to use some incense and you’ll see the smoke.”

“The smoke represents our prayers rising up to God,” he continued. “Jesus is so pleased with our prayers.”

Father Joel Haug carries the monstrance with the consecrated host for those at the confirmation rally to adore. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JILL RAGAR ESFELD

A guitarist played devotional music as the confirmands sat quietly and prayed.

“This was my first time for [eucharistic] adoration,” said Camila, a member of Blessed Sacrament Parish who will be confirmed this year. “For me, it was a good experience.”

Ailea, a member of Holy Name Parish, agreed, saying, “I liked being in church. I really seized the moment.

“It was calming — the songs and that moment of silence.”

Father Haug also encouraged the confirmands to take advantage of the opportunity to receive the sacrament of reconciliation.

“One of the reasons we have so much anxiety is because we have done wrong and we haven’t yet said that we’re sorry,” he said. “Today, you have the opportunity to have some of that burden taken off your heart.

“The important thing to realize is there’s nothing you’ve done that is too big to forgive.”

Father Viet Nguyen absolves a young person of their sins during confession. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JILL RAGAR ESFELD

After an hour of sitting quietly in eucharistic adoration, the youth were content and at peace, but ready to expel some energy.

Upon exiting the church, they were greeted in the parking lot by three roaring bonfires surrounded with hay bales and all the makings of a marshmallow roast and s’mores.

Bonfires and s’mores

“We decided to do the fire of the Holy Spirit,” said Cabral. “We had three fire pits representing the most Holy Trinity — giving them those little visuals to help them understand a little bit of the greatness of our faith.”

Participants were given a roasting stick and a bag with essential ingredients to make s’mores.

The activity was a perfect way to end the day.

“When we all went into church and it was all quiet,” said Holy Name parishioner Andreas, “we had our time with God and the songs playing and everything.

“It really brought peace to my mind.”

“But,” he added, “roasting marshmallows was good. I liked it!

“I vote for them!”

Agustin cools off his marshmallow before making a s’more at the Confirmation Rally Bonfire. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JILL RAGAR ESFELD

The young people then spent some time sitting around the fire pits, sharing thoughts and getting to know their fellow confirmands.

“Hopefully, it was a time for them to see other kids going through this journey with them,” said Cabral. “And that might be a motivational factor for them to keep going and find that love for their faith and the sacraments.”

The event ended with a raffle for some favorite prizes for young people — gift cards to McDonalds, Starbucks and IHOP.

As the rally wound down and parents came to pick up their teens, new friends parted with the knowledge that God loves them and they are not on this journey alone.

Camilla was able to sum up what the youth liked most about the day.

“Going to church and roasting the marshmallows,” she said, “it was all a good time!”

About the author

Jill Esfeld

Jill Ragar Esfeld received a degree in Writing from Missouri State University and started her profession as a magazine feature writer, but quickly transitioned to technical/instructional writing where she had a successful career spanning more than 20 years. She returned to feature writing when she began freelancing for The Leaven in 2004. Her articles have won several awards from the Catholic Press Association. Jill grew up in Christ the King parish in Kansas City, Missouri; and has been a member of Holy Trinity Parish in Lenexa, Kansas, for 35 years.

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