Fr. Stephen Wojcichowsky offers a blessing to a student at the Feb, 1 Youth Day.

WCR PHOTO | THANDIWE KONGUAVI

Fr. Stephen Wojcichowsky offers a blessing to a student at the Feb, 1 Youth Day.

February 8, 2016
THANDIWE KONGUAVI
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

Thousands of Grade Eight students gathered to sing, pray, learn, laugh and celebrate what it means to be Catholic at the first annual Father Michael Mireau Youth Faith Day on Feb. 1.

Mireau, the Edmonton Catholic Schools chaplain for whom the event was named in honour, would have gotten a kick out of the sight.

"He was all about that - kind of losing your cool and just being in that moment and letting the Holy Spirit lead within you," said Heather Kaup, principal of St. Kevin Junior High and a close friend of Mireau.

The district chaplain died in September 2014 at the age of 42 from cancer.

"I miss him every day but you know, watching these kids reminds me that he's never far," said Kaup.

The late Fr. Mireau and his dog Nemo made an appearance on the big screen during the Feb. 1 event at the Shaw Conference Centre.

WCR PHOTO | THANDIWE KONGUAVI

The late Fr. Mireau and his dog Nemo made an appearance on the big screen during the Feb. 1 event at the Shaw Conference Centre.

Youth Faith Day was Mireau's vision, the priest always wanting to have something for Grade 8 students, who he thought were sort of the "in-betweeners," said Kaup.

Some 3,500 staff and students from the Grade 8 classes of Edmonton Catholic Schools, Elk Island Catholic Schools, Evergreen Catholic Schools, St. Albert Catholic Schools and St. Thomas Aquinas Roman Catholic Schools took part in the event at the Shaw Conference Centre.

A Star Wars-type scrawl opened the event, remembering Mireau as a superhero, "who lived his life teaching and showing us that God is love."

The theme, Serve Like a Superhero, was an ode to the Net-savvy priest's gift for connecting with young people using pop culture references, the superhero genre, costumes, props and his beloved dog Nemo to bring to light the truth of the Gospel. He ended all of his homilies by quoting the scripture "God is love."

SERVE LIKE A SUPERHERO

Archbishop Richard Smith, who celebrated the Eucharist with the students at the end of the day, said to serve like a superhero in a Christian context means that we realize that the strength that we normally associate with being a superhero is never our own, it's the strength that comes to us from the love of God.

LOVE IS PERSONAL

"God is love and that love is nothing abstract, not something far, far away. It's something very personal that touches us deep within our hearts, transforms us and gives us the strength that we need to serve others," said Smith.

Jesse Manibusan sang songs and encouraged students to develop their talents at the Fr. Michael Mireau Youth Faith Day.

WCR PHOTO | THANDIWE KONGUAVI

Jesse Manibusan sang songs and encouraged students to develop their talents at the Fr. Michael Mireau Youth Faith Day.

The purpose of the event was to bring the faith alive for junior high students, inspiring them to be empowered to make a change within themselves and into the world.

Teaching on the theme God is Love, entertainer Jesse Manibusan led the students in songs, skits and humorous storytelling about Catholic social teaching, service, courage, compassion and community. He encouraged students to use their talents and share their gifts to bless others.

THE POWER SOURCE

The second speaker, Mike Patin from Louisiana, wearing a spoof superhero costume, talked about how God speaks to ordinary people. He encouraged the students to be themselves, stay connected to God, their power source, and share themselves with others.

Passionate about youth and his dog Nemo, Mireau empowered the students, family and staff of Edmonton Catholic Schools to realize the relevance of Jesus Christ in our modern world and modern lives, said Superintendent Joan Carr.

Youth Faith Day was followed by the Edmonton Catholic Schools' Faith Development Day on Feb. 2, with the same featured speakers.

Mike Patin encouraged students to stay connected with God and to themselves.

WCR PHOTO | THANDIWE KONGUAVI

Mike Patin encouraged students to stay connected with God and to themselves.