THE YOUTH RALLY will be held Sept. 17, 12:30-6:30 p.m., at Immaculate Conception parish in Glenville. Late registrations may be accommodated, but there are no walk-ins. Contact Christine Goss, (518) 399-9203 or cicyouth@nycap.rr.com, or see www.icglenville.com/youth-rally. Here, the number of middle-schoolers attending a Breakaway retreat this summer shows that age group's eagerness to explore their faith.
The Twin Rivers vicariate, which is sponsoring the rally, includes Our Lady of Grace parish, Ballston Lake; St. Edward's, Clifton Park; Our Lady of Fatima, Delanson; Immaculate Conception, Glenville; All Saints on the Hudson, Mechanicville/Stillwater; Corpus Christi, Round Lake; 10 Schenectady parishes — St. Adalbert's, St. Anthony's, St. Kateri Tekakwitha, Our Lady Queen of Peace, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, St. John the Evangelist, St. Joseph's, St. Luke's, St. Madeleine Sophie and St. Paul the Apostle — St. Gabriel the Archangel, Rotterdam; St. Joseph's, Scotia; and St. Mary's, Crescent.
Bob Perron will also lead three other events at Immaculate Conception parish in Glenville: Sept. 18, 7 p.m., an adult faith enrichment evening; Sept. 19, 9:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., a fall in-service event for catechetical and youth ministry leaders ($25); and also Sept. 19, 7 p.m., a presentation on "Living as Missionary Disciples" for catechists, youth ministers and volunteers who work with young people in parishes. Contact (518) 399-9203 or cicyouth@nycap.rr.com.
THE YOUTH RALLY will be held Sept. 17, 12:30-6:30 p.m., at Immaculate Conception parish in Glenville. Late registrations may be accommodated, but there are no walk-ins. Contact Christine Goss, (518) 399-9203 or cicyouth@nycap.rr.com, or see www.icglenville.com/youth-rally.

Here, the number of middle-schoolers attending a Breakaway retreat this summer shows that age group's eagerness to explore their faith.

The Twin Rivers vicariate, which is sponsoring the rally, includes Our Lady of Grace parish, Ballston Lake; St. Edward's, Clifton Park; Our Lady of Fatima, Delanson; Immaculate Conception, Glenville; All Saints on the Hudson, Mechanicville/Stillwater; Corpus Christi, Round Lake; 10 Schenectady parishes — St. Adalbert's, St. Anthony's, St. Kateri Tekakwitha, Our Lady Queen of Peace, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, St. John the Evangelist, St. Joseph's, St. Luke's, St. Madeleine Sophie and St. Paul the Apostle — St. Gabriel the Archangel, Rotterdam; St. Joseph's, Scotia; and St. Mary's, Crescent.

Bob Perron will also lead three other events at Immaculate Conception parish in Glenville: Sept. 18, 7 p.m., an adult faith enrichment evening; Sept. 19, 9:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., a fall in-service event for catechetical and youth ministry leaders ($25); and also Sept. 19, 7 p.m., a presentation on "Living as Missionary Disciples" for catechists, youth ministers and volunteers who work with young people in parishes. Contact (518) 399-9203 or cicyouth@nycap.rr.com.
Middle school is when young Catholics start to figure out faith for themselves. An upcoming youth rally specifically for sixth- through eighth-graders will be an opportunity to do that, in the context of high-energy music, breakout sessions on unusual topics and even a giant outdoor Jenga game.

Christine Goss calls the Sept. 17 rally "thinking outside the box in how we present faith."

The youth rally will be held at Immaculate Conception parish in Glenville, where Mrs. Goss is youth minister. The rally is sponsored by all 19 parishes of the Twin Rivers vicariate, with support from the diocesan Office of Catholic Faith Formation and Education and the Diocese itself.

It's been a number of years since the Diocese held a youth rally that targets middle-schoolers, said Mrs. Goss -- and it's time to rejuvenate that tradition.

Growing up
"Middle-schoolers are reconciling everything in their life: 'This is who I am; this is what I value,'" agreed Rev. Robert Longobucco, diocesan vicar for Catholic faith formation and education and pastor of St. Kateri Tekakwitha parish in Schenectady. "Those things are trying to coalesce."

Through the rally, he said, "we're letting them know Christ is there to help them. It's an important time to really trust in God."

The event's theme is, "Be Strong; Be Bold; Be Courageous." The rally will include a keynote by Bob Perron of Catholic moviemaking ministry ODB Films on what it means to trust in God, a talk by Father Longobucco on reconciliation, opportunities to receive the sacrament and a Mass with Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger.

There will also be a concert by the Christian rock band Awakening and eight breakout sessions on topics like faith in athletics and answering questions about Catholicism. In one session, young people who went on a mission trip will talk about their experience and share photos.

Fun stuff
Two of the most popular breakout sessions are a talk on faith lessons found in Dr. Seuss books and "Turn It Up," a session on growing in faith through music. The latter session is already filled up, Mrs. Goss noted, which "should tell us something about what connects to middle-school students."

A variety of food and outdoor games will be available, too. Mrs. Goss noted that lecturing at middle-schoolers for hours without breaks wouldn't keep their interest, so there will be several inflatables, including an obstacle course and a giant Twister game.

The foundation of faith is in building relationships, said Mrs. Goss, and it's easier for young people to be present to one another when they're laughing and enjoying themselves.

Faith will literally be woven into the whole day. In a "service tent," participants can make tied-fleece blankets for people in need to be distributed through Schenectady's Works of Mercy ministry and complete a project for Stars for Our Troops, which gives embroidered stars from retired U.S. flags to military personnel, veterans and first responders.

Nearly 150 middle-schoolers from six of the Diocese's seven vicariates have already registered to attend the youth rally. Parish faith formation programs and Catholic schools were both contacted; the Diocese's Catho­lic high schools are invited to have a table with information for students.

We want it
Mrs. Goss told The Evangelist that it's evident from the growing popularity of the Diocese's Breakaway retreats for junior-high students that middle-schoolers are interested in learning about their faith and developing their own perspectives. Last year, 30 students attended Breakaway; this summer, registrations hit 50.

By high school, said Mrs. Goss, students' lives "are already super busy. The middle-school population, they're forming priorities, deciding what's important to them." It's better to start offering faith-based opportunities earlier than "waiting until they're in ninth or 10th grade and trying to recruit them."

Besides, she said, the Diocese already has strong faith formation opportunities for high-schoolers, from the Christian Leadership Institute (CLI) to attendance at the National Catholic Youth Conference. NCYC will be held in Indianapolis Nov. 16-18; hundreds of teens from the Diocese are expected to travel to it.

The local youth rally will be a chance for middle-schoolers to "be involved with larger experiences of Church," said Mrs. Goss -- something they may not be getting at home or even in parish faith formation programs.

"There's such a wide range of where kids are at in their faith" at this age, she said. "Middle-schoolers are still very much modeling the faith of their parents." If families are active in the Church, the children likely will be, too, but that doesn't always happen.

If a few students get interested in events like the youth rally, she added, more will follow.

"Middle-schoolers are super-influential on their peers. When they say, 'Come to this,' it's an easy, 'Yes,' a lot of times."

The youth minister promised those who turn out for the rally "a very different experience of Church."