SENECA FALLS — Whether it involved chatting with Bishop Matthew H. Clark, engaging in spiritual moments, getting tangled up in Spandex or taking part in other fun and games, there was something for everyone at the diocesan Junior High Rally.
The 12th annual event was held Saturday, May 1, at New York Chiropractic College. It attracted 325 participants in grades 6-8, with approximately 40 youths and adult chaperons coming from Southern Tier parishes. One of the larger parish contingents hailed from Blessed Trinity/St. Patrick’s in Tioga County — including 10 youths alone from Blessed Trinity’s St. Margaret Mary in Apalachin.
“It’s been a big thing each year, kind of passed down. The older kids talk about it and the younger kids want to come,” said Sue White, St. Margaret Mary youth minister.
Tier parishes were thrust into the spotlight early on during the rally. In his opening address Bishop Clark singled out Blessed Trinity/St. Patrick and St. Anthony’s in Groton, encouraging them to intermingle while asking other parishes to expand their social networks as well.
The bishop also celebrated a late-afternoon Mass. During the day he urged participants to become active in their parishes, saying they shouldn’t consider themselves too young to get involved. He also asked the youths to grow in their faith through daily prayer, even if only for a few minutes each day; and by attending Sunday Mass regularly.
At Mass the bishop clapped his hands to music provided by a youth ensemble. At other points of the rally he chatted with numerous young people, moving about the college gymnasium in shorts and a T-shirt.
Eric Carey and Cal Conner, both from St. Anthony’s in Groton, noted that they had their picture taken with Bishop Clark. “It was very exciting; I was just stunned to meet him. He’s such a famous man,” said Eric, 12.
“It was cool. He shook my hand and we just talked a little bit,” added Cal, 12.
Eric has now set a lofty goal for meeting his next big church official: “I wish I could see the pope now.”
Karin Andersson, from St. Catherine of Siena in Ithaca, said she was pleasantly surprised at the bishop’s down-to-earth style. “He is very cool. Like, not so much serious,” said Karin, 13.
The Junior High Rally offered many highlights in addition to the bishop. Opening activities for the daylong program were provided by members of the Diocesan Youth Committee in the form of games, icebreakers and inspirational talks. In one segment, participants discussed the spiritual aspects of such movies as “Finding Nemo,” “The Lion King” and “Lord of the Rings.”
Other rally activities included dinner and small-group sharing after Mass, plus a “Holy Hullabaloo” — volleyball, basketball, swimming, karaoke and other fun activities that took place in the afternoon and evening.
Eric said he experienced similar enjoyment at “The Rock” — one of a series of regionalized junior-high day retreats held by the diocese earlier in the school year. Yet he said the Junior High Rally was even better due to a wider array of offerings.
“It’s been very fun, a really good rally,” agreed Elijah Bigsby, 11, from Ithaca’s St. Catherine of Siena. Elijah’s favorite moments were playing volleyball and taking part in “community Spandex,” in which several people entwined themselves in the easily-stretching fiber.
Karin, meanwhile, was impressed by the rally’s spiritual aspects. “The messages, you could really reflect on … I liked the Mass. It gives you ideas and information,” she said.
Angela Cacciaglia, 14, of Apalachin’s St. Margaret Mary, said she was looking forward to going swimming that evening. Meanwhile, fellow parishioner Tonia Rinn was enjoying, well, everything.
“I liked the volleyball, meeting people, music, watching movies and being hyper,” exclaimed Tonia, 13, as she hopped up and down.