SEATTLE – Nearly 500 junior high students from all over the archdiocese packed into the O’Dea High School gym March 7 for a day of fun, worship and a chance to get inspired about their faith.
“Your faith matters,” said speaker Isabel Gregorio, a Juanita High School student and member of Holy Family Parish in Kirkland. “I know personally it has been the glue that has kept me together,” said Gregorio, who moved to the U.S. from the Philippines at age 10. “It has kept me sane after everything that I have been through,” including family troubles, bouts of loneliness and the pressures of high school, she said.
The Junior High Rally, organized by the archdiocese’s Office of Youth and Young Adult Evangelization, encouraged students to answer Pope Francis’ call to live their faith boldly. The theme, “Make a Mess,” was a reference to the pope’s 2013 World Youth Day message: “I expect a mess … I want people to go out! I want the Church to go out to the street!”
The local event brought together young Catholics from 47 parishes in the archdiocese, and even from across the mountains. The day included adult and youth speakers and performances by Los Angeles-based Catholic rapper Joe Melendrez. Awards for exceptional missionary service were given to youth groups and youth leaders from around the archdiocese.
Sacred Heart EDGE student Clay Burghart lights a candle in the Marian chapel at St. James Cathedral in Seattle at the end of the Junior High Rally March 7. Photo: Courtesy Sacred Heart Parish, Bellingham
Youth minister Diana Jorda from St. Anthony Parish in Renton served as emcee, keeping the energy and engagement high among the youth and leading them in activities like volleyball with a “net” of adult volunteers.
Melendrez talked with students about the importance of being who God created them to be, letting God into their lives, and living their faith. His points were punctuated with thought-provoking, entertaining stories from his life — such as how he turned winning three Chipotle burritos a day for a year into a vehicle for evangelization. Every day that year, he invited people from his college campus to share a meal and discuss their lives and issues of faith.
“With God, all things are possible,” Melendrez said, “including a burrito bounty.”
Leonard Dietlin, an adult volunteer from St. Cecilia Parish in Stanwood, said he liked the way Melendrez used an out-of-the-box approach — such as rapping the Hail Mary — to engage young people in their faith. “It mixes their world with religion,” Dietlin said.
The rally also gave the young Catholics a chance to participate in a variety of prayer experiences, including the stations of the cross and Taize, before ending the day with Mass celebrated by Archbishop J. Peter Sartain at neighboring St. James Cathedral.
Mark Van Epps, a junior high student from St. Andrew’s Parish in Ellensburg, said his favorite part of the rally was the music: “It restored and encouraged my faith.”