Junior high rally shows youths how they can answer God’s call

COLUMBIA — Nearly 500 Catholic junior high students from 32 parishes gathered at the White Oak Conference Center Nov. 6 to explore how they will respond to God’s call.

Jerry White, director of the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry for the Diocese of Charleston, told the group that they don’t have to wait until they are adults to answer the Lord’s call.

“Samuel, from the Old Testament, was young when he was called by God, and just like Samuel, our youth need to listen to the voice of God and act on it now,” he said.

Word about the value of the diocesan youth programs has been spreading throughout the state as attendance continues to rise each year with more parishes taking part. Under the leadership of Barbara Venturelli, 83 people came from St. Philip Neri Church in Fort Mill to attend the rally.

Kristine Henry, a member of the evangelization team from St. Michael Church in Fort Jackson, hoped that junior high students could get excited about the possibilities when “you answer the call.”

In the first session, “Call Waiting,” the youth were urged to stop putting God on hold.

Cathy Roche, administrative assistant for Christian Formation, was glad to be able to assist White at the rally. She found it to be a unique experience because she was able to attend with her sixth-grade son, Kevin, who went with his youth group from Immaculate Conception Church in Goose Creek. He told his mother that the rally showed him that it could be fun to be Catholic.

“The very next day, Kevin had an opportunity to apply the theme of the rally, ‘Answer the Call,’ ” Roche said. “He was apprehensive about serving Mass for the first time that Sunday and wanted to back out of it.”

But a gentle reminder of the rally theme helped Kevin decide to follow through with his commitment.

“Afterwards he said he was glad he answered the call,” Roche said.

She was impressed about how much her son took with him from the experience.

Father Carson Bush, parochial vicar at St. Peter Church, was the celebrant for the closing Mass. His homily was filled with words of hope that made a wonderful complement to the rally’s theme.

“We have hope even in the darkness of the world because Jesus Christ is the light that shines through it,” Father Bush said. “It is that hope that gives us the strength to testify to the truth.”

He went on to explain to the youth that God can work through them to change what is wrong in the world. He asked them to lift up their hands and then told them, “these are the hands that God will use.”

Continuing with his empowering words, Father Bush asked the students to touch their eyes, mouths, ears, and hearts, suggesting that they should let God use every part of themselves.

Michael Vassallo, an 11th-grader from Jesus, Our Risen Savior Parish in Spartanburg and part of the evangelization team, helped plan the diocesan youth events. He did not want to take any credit for its success, however.

“The day went the way God wanted it to go,” Vassallo said. “He made sure things fell into place, and the kids heard what they needed to hear.”

Other assistance for the success of the rally came from the Catholic band Wannabe Steven, who provided lively music throughout the day, and Cultivation Ministries, who provided people to give technical support to the evangelization team.