Middle-schoolers ‘Show Know Mercy’

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April 16 was a perfect day to be outside, and about 600 diocesan middle-schoolers, along with volunteers, parents and diocesan Office of Youth Ministry staff did just that at Saint John Paul the Great Catholic High School in Dumfries for BASH 2016. This year's theme was "Show Know Mercy."

The afternoon began with students gathered on the open field dotted with moon bounces and a climbing tower.

Others played "ring the bell," a game of strength where a student whacks a lever with a sledge hammer to propel a puck up a vertical tower and ring a bell at the top.

There were lines at these attractions all afternoon, plus lines for ice cream and drinks.

Dozens of students faced off in two teams to play dodgeball, throwing brightly colored balls at each other until a champion emerged. There was also a basketball free-throw contest.

But off to the side near a fence separate from the carnival rides three priests sat at chairs waiting to hear confessions. A steady stream of students came to these priests.

At around 5 p.m., dinner was served - which, as the announcement said over the loudspeakers, was "pizza, pizza and, of course, pizza."

The rides and games continued until 6:30 when the students gathered in the gym and sat on the floor to wait for the musical entertainment.

Popple, the two-man Catholic, acoustic, rock ministry of Dan Harms and Kyle Heimann, played songs and told fun and inspirational stories.

The evening capped off with a vigil Mass celebrated by Father Bjorn C. Lundberg, John Paul chaplain.

Parents Vickie Zadnick from St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Lake Ridge and Cathy Bernero from St. Ambrose Church in Annandale watched the small army of middle- schoolers attack the rides and lay siege to the pizza.

"BASH is awesome," said Zadnick. "It's a great way for kids to mingle."

It was the first BASH for Woodley Hills Elementary School sixth-graders Emily Grinstead and Diana Binetty, parishioners of Good Shepherd Church in Alexandria. Both agreed they were having a good time.

Youth Apostle Father Ramon Dominguez, a veteran of BASH, brought eight students from the Don Bosco Center in Manassas.

"(I've attended) more times than I can count," he said.

Kevin Bohli, director of the Youth Ministry Office, said the event had a strong faith aspect.

"Our speakers and homilist did a great job of explaining the mercy of Christ that is waiting for each one of us in the sacraments. This is not an easy task when speaking to a gymnasium filled with junior high students," said Bohli.

The Office of Youth Ministry receives funds through the annual Bishop's Lenten Appeal.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016