We are all on a mission for Christ, and we’re meant to do it in the community where we live. That was among the messages shared with youths in grades 6 through 8 during Middle School Rallies held the weekend of March 4 and 5 at St. Teresa Church in Brewer and Most Holy Trinity Church in Saco.
The rallies, presented by the Office of Lifelong Faith Formation, were opportunities for younger adolescents to gather with their peers and parents to celebrate their faith and the gifts they bring to the Church, to grow in awareness of God’s presence and action in their lives, and to encourage their active participation in the life and mission of the Church, in and through their parish communities. Approximately 120 teens and parents participated in the sessions.
The featured presenters were Gene Monterastelli and Brad Farmer of Apex Ministries, who use what they call “Christian Vaudeville” to reach their audiences. Monterastelli and Farmer combine juggling and jokes with sketches, storytelling, and Scripture to entertain and evangelize.
The pair emphasized to the youths how special each of them is to God and told them that they each was created by God for a reason.
“Who you are is that unique, unrepeatable reality,” Farmer said. “There will never be another you, and you have been given a special, superhero secret mission that no other part of the universe has, because it’s not you. Our job is to bring what we’ve given into where we are. There is no mistake that you were born into this part of the country, in this part of the world, in this particular time in history. It’s intentional because right here is your mission field as superheroes. Right here is where your mission is. You weren’t meant for another time or another place. This is where you’re needed. It’s time for you to rise up.”
The richer their prayer life and the stronger their relationship with God, the more their superhero powers will be activated, Farmer told the youths.
“That’s what happens with God. We’re the ones who are changed,” he said. “We enter into that relationship with God, and if we truly enter into that, you don’t walk away the same, you walk away raised up.”
Farmer told the youths that, although each of them is unique, they are all part of the same body, and he said that when one part of the body suffers, whether through bullying, neglect, or another reason, all parts of the body suffer. He stressed the need to treat everyone with respect.
“Sometimes, that’s all we see in another person – what’s on the outside, and we judge them. Sometimes, really stupid stuff, really surface-y stuff. Our society, our culture teaches us to do that. It’s taught us to see people the same way we see things,” he said. “The human person is the kind of being that should never be a means to another end. It’s an end in itself.”
The youths said they enjoyed the sessions and will take what they learned back with them to their parishes.
“I’ll remember a lot of it,” said Julianah, an eighth grader from St. Mary of Lourdes Parish, Lincoln. “I liked those two comedian guys. They were funny.”
“I think it’s been a really good experience, and it’s brought me closer to God,” said Hannah, also an eighth grader from St. Mary of Lourdes.
“I learned that if somebody has a mental illness, they still should be treated just as good as anybody else,” said Joseph, from St. Mary of the Visitation Parish, Houlton.
The Middle School Rallies were also intended to nurture and encourage parents as they guide their children through the changing tides of adolescence. One session for them was entitled “What were you thinking?” It focused on how the teenage brain works and how it impacts the choices they make.
In addition to the entertaining talks, the rallies also included games such as balloon volleyball, Simon Says, and Salt & Pepper, where participants ask questions to try to find the person with a matching word taped to their back.
This is the second year that the Office of Lifelong Faith Formation has presented the Middle School Rallies. Among those leading the sessions were members of the Catholic Youth Leadership Team, which is comprised of high school teens from around the state.