On Saturday, May 26, close to six hundred young people 12-17 years old spent a full day at Bishop MacDonell Catholic High School for the third annual Youth Rally. The theme for this year’s rally was “BE”, inspired by the story of the Annunciation: “Do not be afraid… you have found favour with God” (Luke 1:30).
The rally, a one-day Catholic conference, was organized by the Office of Youth Ministry of the Diocese of Hamilton in partnership with the Catholic Youth Organization of Hamilton. “There was a need and a thirst for it within our parishes and schools,” said Christina Mines, Director of Youth Ministry for the Diocese of Hamilton. Mines and other youth ministry leaders want young people to “know that they are loved and valued” and have something to offer the Church and the world.
Seven workshops focused on how to respond to that Love, like Mary did, in the world today. Each workshop offered the participants practical tips on how to live their faith, especially as a young Catholic going through high school. They touched upon concrete aspects of a young person’s life: social media; work and family responsibilities; leadership; social justice; and, of course, prayer. Participants were motivated to realize how, by their faith in Jesus Christ, young people can be leaders in transforming the world they live in.
The main event of the day was guest speaker Katie Prejean McGrady, an international speaker and author of two books: Room 24: Adventures of a New Evangelist
and Follow: Your Lifelong Adventure with Jesus
. A popular speaker, she travels across the United States and Canada addressing audiences of all ages. Luckily, Hamilton was able to snag her for their Youth Rally.
She shared her own story with passion and humour, delighting participants with photos of her baby girl, Rose, and husband of two years, Tommy, and cutting right to the heart of the matter with some hard-hitting truth bombs about God and His love for each person. If someone were to ask us who we are, what would be our answer? Prejean McGrady listed a series of things that would initially come to mind. However, not many of us would immediately say, or even think to say, “I am a son or I am a daughter of God” or “I am loved.” Yet that is the fundamental truth about who we are.
It was a message the organizing team was happy to hear being repeated over and over again throughout the day. It was also a message that seemed to sink into the hearts of the young participants, who were deeply engaged in the conference. The energy inside the walls of the high school was electric. The music team was led by A Guy and a Girl duo, a young married couple, and helped feed that energy from morning to evening.
The Hamilton Youth Rally will surely make a comeback next year. But in the Diocese of Hamilton, youth ministry is on the minds of its staff 24/7. That includes not only the young people they minister to but also those they support who work on the front lines of youth ministry. “We pray for them each and every day,” says Mines. “They are the source of our prayer. Youth ministry is the source of a lot of our prayer and our work, and so we want people to know that they matter, that the ministry that they’re offering and serving in matters, and that we’re here to support them every step of the way; and just to build authentic friendships and relationships.”