Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of October 25, 1999
Youth eager for straight talk
Music, talks on sin, sacraments fire up youth rally
By GLEN ARGAN
Get sin out of your life. Frequent the sacraments. Rely on the Holy Spirit. Put your faith into action.
It was a strong clear message that received an enthusiastic response from 700 teenagers from across Alberta Oct. 16.
"The biggest heresy is to say there is no such thing as sin," musician-speaker Joe Hand of Nashville told the teens and 100 adults at the annual archdiocesan youth rally at Archbishop O'Leary High School.
"Sin is not something that is fun and you shouldn't do. It's something that's going to separate you from God," echoed Joe's wife Jean-Ann.
The Hands gave no-nonsense talks to the teens, interspersed with lively rock music and the occasional slow ballad. The youth lapped it up.
"It's awesome! It's cool!" said Jason Anderson, 15, of Sylvan Lake.
"I like the atmosphere here - everybody's positive attitudes," said Laura Shennan, 15, of Spruce Grove.
"At school there's so many different pressures. You can come here and everybody's just happy," said Katie Rozak, 15, of Sherwood Park. "It's a really fun time."
"Great! I love it!" Devon Veenstra, 15, of Innisfail, said of the rally. He learned a lot from the talks and made new friends.
Devon also attended the Youth 2000 weekend for youth in September. And while Youth 2000 was a retreat, the rally was more oriented to having fun.
Matthew Hebert, 15, of St. Vincent, came to the rally because his parents told him about it and he wanted to get closer to God.
"I think we stray away sometimes," Matthew said. "There's a lot of stuff here that gets you thinking about life and your relationship with God.
"And the music is very powerful. It gets people motivated."
Motivating young people is what has kept Odile Wilson of St. Albert involved with the youth rally since she started it in 1993. "It's been great. I love it. I just love it," she said.
The event brings together young people from across Alberta "so they can see there's other people who have the same faith they do," she said.
"I've seen a lot of young people who have matured into young adults and are really carrying on the faith," Wilson added.
The event also bonds the adults who work with youth in parishes, she said. And it makes adult volunteers "aware that youth ministry is important and that we have to take care of our youth."
Joe and Jean-Ann Hand, who have had a full-time traveling youth ministry for three years, were impressed with the Alberta rally and youth.
"The kids have been open for it right from the beginning," Joe told the WCR.
Travelling across the United States, the couple have found a generation of youth who are disillusioned with everything but who are often open to the faith.
"They want some truth," said Jean-Ann.
"The Church is in a groaning stage. There has been three or four generations of people who don't know what they think about their faith," added Joe. "But the young people are on fire and they're going to fix what's wrong with the Church."
"They're the first generation that's not tainted," said Jean-Ann. "It's like spring."
The couple told of their experience of yearly visits to Dallas to work with teens there. They led Holy Hours in front of the Blessed Sacrament with music and prayer. That has inspired a local group of teens to start their own prayer group to hold Holy Hours.
In other places, they've found teens launching their own noon-hour prayer groups in schools. Here, they were impressed by the strong youth ministries and the Behold the Lamb outreach.
"There's so much; it's so exciting," said Jean-Ann.
Joe told the rally how, before his own conversion, his own recording career took him onto MuchMusic TV several times. But he was unhappy.
"That's because I was doing the wrong things with the wrong people for the wrong reasons."
He urged the youth to take a different path: "What you have to do is tune into God and say 'Help me to choose you instead of sin.'"