By Celine Klosterman
CORALVILLE — Why don’t more teens get into religion?
Students at the Davenport Diocese’s youth rally Oct. 23 had plenty of answers for presenter Mike Patin’s question — some teens think church isn’t cool; it’s boring; they weren’t raised with a faith; parties and electronic devices distract youths from spiritual life.
But 578 students and adults at the Marriott Conference Center in Coralville still found reason to devote a day to their faith at the rally, whose theme was “Can We Love?” They spent the annual event listening to two keynote presentations from Patin, attending breakout sessions on faith-related topics, participating in Mass, hearing music by the band from the North Liberty-based Leap of Faith Ministries Organization and enjoying games and fellowship.
Youths today face pressure in school, at home and from their peers, teens told Patin. “I know you think you’re the only freak in here,” he said. As a high school freshman, he didn’t feel he fit in, either.
But God loves and believes in us no matter what, said the Louisiana resident and national speaker. Being a Christian doesn’t mean we won’t suffer, but that we have Jesus to lean on in hard times.
Patin gave teens four words to remember: pray (even if it’s just little thoughts shared with God throughout the day), look (with God’s eyes at your neighbor), unity (people are stronger together than alone), and serve (offer to tutor a fellow student, visit a nursing home or share your talents).
One youth and adult who have shared their talents for the Church received the ninth annual Diocesan Youth Ministry Committee awards for advancement of comprehensive youth ministry. Honored this year were Brenna Bormann, a teenage member of St. Mary Parish in Oxford who is involved in numerous youth activities and service projects, and Father Marty Goetz, former vocations director for the diocese.
“Ever since kindergarten this young lady has shown compassion to those in need,” said Brenna’s youth minister, Michelle Montgomery. With an understanding of justice and service, the youth has tried to make the world a better place. “It is just the beginning of what God has called her to do as an example for all of us.”
Fr. Goetz has a great love for God, the Church and youths, and he has made countless visits to schools and retreats, Bishop Martin Amos said. “Part of his legacy to us is his conviction that all of us have a vocation … All of us are called to spread the kingdom.”
In a discussion with a Catholic Messenger reporter, 10 youths shared the rewards and challenges of living out their vocations as Catholics. The breakout session the students participated in was one of 15 sessions youths could attend on topics including making God a priority, reaching out to Africa, standing up to bullying and achieving goals.
Students told a reporter they appreciated the Eucharist, Mass, Catholicism’s emphasis on tradition, and liturgical holidays. But what’s challenging is making different decisions than your friends because of your Catholic values, being made fun of for going to church, and worrying that a priest is judging you when making your confession, youths said.
It helps to be surrounded by peers who share your faith, several youths said. “It’s really cool to see all the young people here and know you’re not alone,” Megan Teets, a member of St. Mary Parish in Iowa City, said during a break before Mass. “Everyone here has something to offer.”
She said she appreciated “well presented, relatable” breakout sessions on vocations and making difficult decisions.
Jerry Quinlan, a member of St. Mary Parish in Oxford, said he enjoyed Patin’s energetic presentations that got youths involved through icebreakers and songs.
Whatever your background and interests, the youth rally offers something for you, said Adam Kall, a member of the youth group from Sacred Heart Cathedral and Holy Family Parish in Davenport. He and Quinlan each voiced appreciation for the fellowship with faith-filled peers at the event.
“I came in knowing three people and left with five new friends,” Kall said.