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Teens on fire for the faith at RALLY

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This article has been updated.

More than 800 high school-aged teens, adult leaders and volunteers spent eight hours of their Sunday getting excited about and experiencing the Catholic faith with their peers.

During the eight-hour event called Rally at Bishop O’Connell High School in Arlington Oct. 21, the teens attended workshops on topics relevant to their demographic, including “God and Science: Where Does the Evidence Lead?”, “When a Friend Says ‘I’m Pregnant,’” “Digital Loneliness: How Social Media Is Hijacking Our Lives,” and many more.


The teens also attended Mass and Eucharistic adoration, played games on outdoor rides and inflatables, and saw priests and diocesan seminarians host “Extravaganza!” — a goofy talent, joke and game show all in one.

For the first time in Rally history, Bishop Michael F. Burbidge held a listening session following Mass in response to Pope Francis’ call to all bishops to listen to youths to coincide with the Synod on Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment taking place in Rome.

Bishop Burbidge asked the teens what brings them the most joy about being Catholic and what they find to be the greatest challenges, how they think we can reach more people in the Catholic faith, who had the greatest influence on their personal faith lives, and more.

Twin brothers and parishioners of St. Jude Church in Fredericksburg, Jerome and Jeremy Donfack, 14, said they liked the event because it was the first opportunity they felt they’ve had to “really learn more about God.” They attended a workshop about St. John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body.”

“I’ve learned a lot more about the human body,” Jerome said.

“I didn’t realize how sacred the body was until now,” his brother, Jeremy, agreed.

During his homily, Bishop Burbidge told the teens representing nearly 50 parishes that this weekend’s Gospel highlights three instructions for us: surrender, suffer and serve.

“This was the most culturally diverse Rally that we have had,” said Kevin Bohli, director of the Office of Youth, Campus, and Young Adults, which sponsored the event. “We reached out to all of the various cultural communities in an attempt to make Rally a better representation of the diversity of our diocese. Hopefully, we can build upon this success and design our events to be more appealing to young people of many different cultural backgrounds.

Bohli said his office does everything it can over the course of eight hours “to give young people an experience of their faith, which shows them how very relevant, exciting and joyful it can be to live our Catholic faith.”

Bohli said he walked into the auditorium behind two apprehensive young girls at the beginning of Rally. 

“As they began to experience the environment that we worked hard to build, the one young lady turned to the other and said, ‘This is cool.’ My goal is to create the best environment possible for the Lord to speak into the heart of each participant at Rally,” Bohli said. 

The listening session with Bishop Burbidge helped all of the adults in the room have a better understanding of what teenage Catholics are looking for from their church, he said. 

“This is especially important as the universal church is asking these same questions at the synod in Rome,” Bohli said.

“While the theme of Rally is not about young people discerning their vocation, it is certainly a big part of the message throughout the day,” he said. “If we are to discover the true joy that God wants for us, it comes through knowing the vocation that God is calling each of us to.”

Plumb is digital and social media coordinator for the diocesan communications office.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018