On Oct. 28, noon-6 p.m., middle school students from across the Albany Diocese will gather for the second annual middle school youth rally.

Held at St. Clement’s parish in Saratoga Springs, the rally is open to students in sixth through eighth grade. The Diocese hopes to bring middle school students together and strengthen their faith as a community.

The day involves various presentations on faith and life, outdoor games and activities, and a talk from popular Catholic speaker Mike Patin.

Patti Abbott, coordinator of faith formation at Annunciation parish in Queensbury, is spearheading the event on behalf of the Adirondack vicariate, which is sponsoring the rally.

She said the rally is crucial for students in this age group who are “often lost” amid activities focused on those in lower or higher grades. For example, she said, the Diocese helps send high school students to the National Catholic Youth Conference (NCYC) or the Georgia-based United Student Conference, but not many events are tailored specifically for middle school students.

Last year’s rally was organized and sponsored by the Twin Rivers vicariate and the diocesan Office of Catholic Faith Formation and Education. When it came time to decide which vicariate would sponsor the event this year, Mrs. Abbott immediately volunteered.

Great opportunity

Randy Rivers, coordinator of youth ministry and confirmation preparation at St. Clement’s, saw the success of last year’s rally. “This will give [middle school students] something to get excited about, and to grow their faith,” he told The Evangelist.

The rally is also a way to celebrate World Youth Day, a worldwide gathering of youth and young adults that will be held in Panama in January. Mrs. Abbott said her vicariate used to host events tied to World Youth Day, but hasn’t been able to in recent years. Taking on the rally was an opportunity to resurrect a big youth-focused event.

Therese and Katherine Desrosiers, sisters from St. Patrick’s parish in Ravena, attended the rally last year. Both said they enjoyed receiving the sacrament of reconciliation and meeting new people from around the Diocese.

“It just felt good to attend,” said Therese.

The rally’s theme is, “Do not be afraid,” from a line in the Gospel of Luke: “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.”

Mr. Rivers said there’s a lot of pressure to live up to the success of last year’s rally, which drew close to 150 middle school students from many parishes. Mrs. Abbott hopes to surpass last year’s numbers and is confident in that goal, as registrations continue to come in each day.

Meeting peers

Seventh-grader Sean Derrick will be attending the rally for the first time this year with his faith formation class from St. Mary’s parish in Glens Falls. He said the rally will be a good opportunity to hang out with friends from his class at Glens Falls Middle School who are also attending the event with groups from their own parishes and faith formation classes.

“Especially for some of the smaller parishes that might not have an opportunity to put something together of this magnitude, it’s nice for these kids to come together,” Mrs. Abbott noted. “One of our faith formation classes in one of our smaller parishes only has three kids in ninth grade, so it’s nice to be able to offer them something in our own backyard, because not every child has the opportunity to go to NCYC.”

She added that giving this early exposure to students primes them “to move up to those bigger events if they’re able.” If they can’t attend further events, the local rally still gives “them somewhat of that larger Catholic experience right at home.”

The day will begin with an opening prayer. Students will be able to socialize and play games like bocce, four square, cornhole and GaGa ball. Mrs. Abbott said the day was designed so that participants would be on their feet and moving around, not just sitting all day.

Keynote and sessions

The keynote speaker, Mike Patin, calls himself a “faith horticulturist” — a reference to gardening, since he tries to plant seeds of faith. Based in Louisiana, the national speaker uses “energy, humor and stories to affirm God’s goodness and presence among us,” according to his website.

Mr. Rivers saw one of Mr. Patin’s talks at NCYC and said the speaker really connected with his young audience.

When registering for the rally, students are asked to select two of the eight offered breakout sessions. Topics include science and faith, saints and heroes, the Bible, music, Mary, the Holy Spirit, communicating with God. Panel discussions will also be offered from locals in the community on how to keep one’s faith in a secular world.

“I just like to see the kids come together and really enjoy a day sharing their faith,” said Mrs. Abbott. “It’s nice to see them come to something like this and freely share their faith with other kids their age, and enjoy themselves at the same time.”

(The cost to attend the rally is $20, which includes a t-shirt and food. See https://stclementschurch.com. For more information, contact Mrs. Abbott at 518-793-9677 or olafaithformation@gmail.com.)