By Becky Aubut
FALL RIVER, Mass. — This year the Office of Faith Formation of the Fall River Diocese is adding a new layer to its annual Youth Convention and Middle School Rally with the addition of interactive sessions that include a panel discussion and a Ministry Fair promoting ministries in and around the diocese.
Entitled, “Blessed are the Merciful,” the annual event will also include keynote presenters “The Kyle and Jon Show.”
“The main thing is I always look for is keynote speakers who are known around the country and have good reputations,” said Claire McManus, director of the diocesan Faith Formation Office. “A few of my colleagues had seen them before. Both of them work in ministry at their parishes, they’re youth ministry people. I always try to find people for the youth who will mix a message with entertainment. I want [the students] to come away from this having an experience of evangelization but also having had a good time.”
Each year, graduates of the Catholic Leadership Institute help organize and plan the convention and rally, and they offered a few changes, starting with the schedule.
“The kids who planned it came up with the scheduling change; they felt that it should be earlier so people can get out earlier,” said Rose Mary Saraiva, events coordinator for the diocesan Office of Faith Formation. “These kids were amazing. They came up with the scheduling format and came up with the topics.”
There will be three workshops offered in the afternoon with the three workshops being presented simultaneously. Members of “The Kyle and Jon Show” will be presenting “True or False? An Expedition to Find Morals”; Marianne Deramo, a theology teacher at Bishop Stang High School, will present “Year of Mercy: Pope Francis Speaks to You”; and under the guidance of the leaders of the Campus Ministry at UMass Dartmouth, Father David Frederici and Deacon Frank Lucca, UMass students will present, “Living Your Faith in a Hostile World.”
The CLI graduates came up with this idea of having college students do a presentation at the convention during the planning stages, said McManus, stating they wanted to hear from a peer as opposed to an adult.
“They wanted to know how to be a Christian even when the kids around them are not necessarily living the lifestyle,” said McManus. “It helps the kids realize that campus ministry exists in college, that after they leave high school they’ll know to look for it.”
An issue that also came up, said Saraiva, was how some CLI grads attend Catholic schools, and that even immersed in a faith-filled environment, some students struggle to get his or her “Catholic on.”
“If you feel that way in a Catholic school, how are you supposed to take that out into the ‘real world,’ which is even more hostile,” said Saraiva.
McManus added, “In high school, we try to make this an experience with youth from around the diocese. They get a message on how to live their faith, have some fun and get some information.”
Another way the Faith Formation Office is getting the information out to the youth is offering a Ministry Fair and a Q&A panel of priests. Students can anonymously write down questions on index cards, and priests will answer questions, along with leading discussions.
The Ministry Fair will have tables set up by diocesan ministries to help highlight how the student’s parish is one part of the greater Universal Church and how they can get involved even beyond the parish. Ministries like the Pro-Life Apostolate, led by Marian Desrosiers, will have a table at the event; tables will also include Scouting, Vocations Office and Prison Ministry.
“We feel that the youth don’t always know what the Catholic Church is doing,” said McManus. “They see what a parish does but they don’t always see the bigger picture. What we’re trying to show them is that in the diocese, there’s a lot of work going on — and when I say work, I mean the ‘building up the Kingdom’ kind of work. We want to expose the kids to that. They’ll be able to walk around and talk to the people at the tables. We’re trying to reach the high school students who are on the cusp of adulthood and give them the experience of the Church they may not get at their parish.”
The idea behind the informative Ministry Fair is to plant the seed so that when those students are ready, they know which avenues to take to volunteer in a ministry in the diocese, said McManus.
The youth rallies that cater to the middle school students don’t offer workshops, but the middle school rallies are wildly popular, said McManus, and are not only being offered to students attending Catholic schools, but also to students attending diocesan parish Faith Formation programs.
Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V., will also be in attendance at the convention.
The Office of Faith Formation will be accepting registrations up to the day before the convention. Workshops do not need to be chosen during registration; students will be allowed to choose a workshop to attend during the rally.
The High School Convention is scheduled for March 6; check-in begins at 9:30 a.m., and the convention ends at 5:30 p.m. Cost is $20 per student; the fee includes lunch.
The Middle School Rally for grades six to eight will be held on two days at two different locations; March 7 at Bishop Stang High School in North Dartmouth and on March 8 at Bishop Feehan High School in Attleboro. Each rally will be from 6-8 p.m. Cost is $5 per student.
Registration can be done on the Faith Formation Office’s website www.FallRiverFaithFormation.org, where the schedule is also available. For more information, contact Rose Mary Saraiva 508-678-2828 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Saraiva hopes the students will walk away from the convention or rally with a “sense of who they want to be, that they don’t have to worry about what others think. People are going to talk about you no matter what you do, so just do it. Do what you believe and trust in your heart, and I hope that the kids will realize that life is going to be difficult. There are going to be uphill struggles; there are going to be the bullies, the naysayers — all those people who are going to try and knock you down. The key is to be who you are and know you are loved, that you are a child of God. That’s what matters.”