By Becky Aubut
FALL RIVER, Mass. — The Diocese of Fall River’s Faith Formation Office is holding its annual Diocesan High School Youth Convention on March 26 at Bishop Connolly High School in Fall River, and the Middle School Rallies on March 27 at Bishop Feehan High School in Attleboro, March 28 at Bishop Stang High School in North Dartmouth and March 29 at Holy Cross Parish Center in Easton.
“The diocese has held a youth convention for many years as a way to evangelize the youth and energize their faith,” explained Claire McManus, director of the Faith Formation Office. “It gives the high school youth a chance to share Eucharist with their bishop, and to hear talks from people who serve the youth in various ministries.”
With the theme “He Lives in You,” and beginning with registration at 9:45 a.m., the high school convention schedule will be filled with general sessions, workshops and a lunch/reflection time with this year’s featured key presenter, Cooper Ray.
“Most of our youth are reached through parish Religious Education programs, although some of our parishes engage older youth in their parish ministries,” said McManus. “The catechetical programs are well established, but this is only one part of how we can engage with youth. Youth ministry tries to connect with youth through various access points, i.e. sports, drama, Religious Education. By offering the high school convention, we serve more than one purpose. We offer a fun experience with a nationally-known entertainer who evangelizes the youth through his or her talent and life story. We also utilize the gifts and talents of our high school youth who attended CLI last summer. The high school convention is planned and organized by these 30 youth and the team from CLI.”
According to the biography posted on his website (www.CooperRay.com), Cooper is quickly becoming one of today’s more popular and sought after speakers, worship leaders and retreat facilitators. He is a dynamic, light-hearted speaker and musician who shares his faith with honesty and passion. Through music, story, humor, and audience participation, Cooper leads groups of all ages to a greater awareness of who they are as Catholic Christians and how to recognize God’s presence in their lives.
Over the past 20 years, Cooper has motivated and inspired youth and adults at countless diocesan, parish, and school events across the country and has spoken and led worship at the National Catholic Youth Conference, the National Conference on Catholic Youth Ministry, Catholic Heart Work Camp and Steubenville Youth Conferences, to name a few.
Cooper received his call to ministry while serving as a camp counselor at a Catholic summer camp during his college years. It was at camp where God ignited his love for music and knowledge of ministry, and started Cooper on a journey of drawing youth and adults to know and live the Gospel. After six summers, he transitioned into diocesan ministry in Baton Rouge, La., where he spent 10 years, seven as the director of Youth Ministry. After 16 years in formal ministry, he started the next phase in his journey answering the call to go “on the road” full-time where he has been ever since.
Along with listening to Ray’s presentation, the high school convention will engage its attendees with a number of workshops designed to be “an enhancement of a parish Confirmation formation,” said McManus. “We recognize that the majority of those youth who attend are in the ninth or 10th grade and are preparing for the Sacrament. We thought it would be a service to the parishes if the convention complemented their programs.”
While the High School Convention caters to students in grades nine-12, the Middle School Rallies will focus on students in grades six-eight. Utilizing three strategically placed locations in the diocese over three separate days, the middle school rallies will reach large number of the Fall River Diocese’s youth, who will enjoy a shorter, but no less comprehensive version, of the high school convention. With more than 1,000 middle school students already signed up to attend, McManus knows that the rally is only part of what helps shape a young person’s faith.
“The purpose of offering middle school rallies is to introduce to younger youth the large group gatherings that have been shown to be effective ways of evangelizing youth, and keeping them connected to the Church,” said McManus. “Of course, we also know that no gathering can replace the important role that parents have in raising children in the faith, but these gatherings enhance the faith experience that the child is getting at home and in their parish.”
To register for the high school convention or a middle school rally, visit www.FallRiverFaithFormation.org for the link, or call Rose Mary Saraiva at 508-678-2828.