By JOANNE FOX
Organizers behind this year’s Oct. 7 youth conference don’t share author Thomas Wolfe’s belief, “You Can’t Go Home Again.”
According to Fred Shellabarger, director of the office of evangelization and discipleship, “We are bringing this wonderful event back to its original location and its former glory.”
Rekindle 2018 – the event formerly known as the Youth Rally – will return to Carroll Kuemper High School, where organizers hope the number of youth will match the heyday of 1,700 youth in attendance.
Through the conference, renamed by the diocese several years ago as “Rekindle,” Shellabarger anticipated youth will rekindle their spark of faith.
“My own faith is rekindled when I see the devotion and love of God in these young people,” he said.
Kara Kardell, assistant director of youth and young adult ministry, echoed those sentiments.
“Ideally, these young people would get that spark and they would go back and want to continue feeding it – growing in their faith,” she said.
Music is an important part of the event and will feature two nationally-known musicians.
Recording artist Noelle Garcia has been speaking to youth and adults for more than 10 years about her faith journey.
“I grew up in a family who went to church a lot,” she said. “As I grew older, I didn’t attend as much.”
Garcia knew God existed but had lost her faith over the years and had no Catholic identity.
“I was fascinated by the lives of the saints,” she said. “But I didn’t believe God loved me.”
The young woman had sunk so low into depression, she contemplated ending her life.
“I asked a priest if I would go to hell if I committed suicide and he told me that God’s mercy was great,” she said. “Although my problems didn’t go away immediately, that response really did save my life.”
Garcia’s primary mission is to teach through her own testimony, that we are all “wonderfully made” in God’s image. She has been featured in CNN’s Latino in America and EWTN’s Life on the Rock, sharing her witness of God’s love through the midst of her struggle with depression and poor self-image and how that encounter with Christ radically changed her life.
Garcia uses music, story, witness and prayer to spread the Gospel. Her ministry is lived through her vocation as wife and mother to five children, ages 8, 6, 5, 3 and six months. Her husband, David McHugh, often travels with her as a fellow musician and speaker.
“I’m doing this interview in my car, so the kids aren’t bothering me,” she confessed. “I can only imagine what the neighbors think.”
Sean Forrest grew up in household with a Catholic father and a Protestant mother.
“I lived a secular lifestyle for a long time,” he said. “I became an agnostic, then a Buddhist and finally reverted to Catholicism.”
Forrest has lived most of his life in the public eye since 1986, with a lucrative singing and songwriting career.
“I had the condo beach house, a couple of cars, had amassed all the toys one can imagine and suddenly thought there must be more to life than this,” he said. “Yes, I was living, but I was really dying.”
By using “reason and faith” Forrest took a risk and went on a faith search, encountered Christ and began a new journey leaving the old life behind.
“It was not a ‘religious experience,’ like God speaking to me,” he said. “I ‘fell’ into the spirit – searching for the truth – is what happened to me.”
During this time, Forrest continued his music career as well, producing, writing and recording CDs. He has written three books and one children’s book.
In 2001 Forrest took another a leap of faith following a mission trip to Haiti.
“I was so moved by the poverty there that I asked God – if it was his will – to help me build an orphanage,” he said. “With the help of an amazing team, we built it, as well as a chapel, school, two homes for the elderly and a medical facility.”
That led to Haiti180, an organization in which Forrest serves as co-founder, president and mission leader.
As last year, there is a high school track and a middle school track. While there will be times when the two age groups will be together for things like music and prayer, Kardell noted the main talks will be separate.
“The talks will be all of the same topics, but they will be at different times for the two tracks, so the information given will be geared to that audience,” she said.
Registration for the event is now open; however, youth must register through their parish. Because youth must have chaperones, Kardell said it is best if they can attend with a group; however, if a teen doesn’t have a group to connect with, they can contact her to connect with another group.
In addition to keynote speakers, other breakout presentations, Mass, adoration, confession, gift card drawings, games and activities, young people may participate in a service project, Then Feed Just One, a mobile food-packing program that helps to alleviate world hunger.
All hard copy registrations and T-shirt orders are due by Sept. 20. Online registrations will remain open until the end of the day on Sept. 27.
If you go:
What: Rekindle 2018
Who: Grades 7-8 and 9-12
When: Oct. 7
Time: Doors open at 10:45 a.m.; day concludes at 8 p.m.
Where: Kuemper High School, Carroll
Cost: Youth registration $35, adult registrations $30 (includes lunch and dinner)
Keynotes: Noelle Garcia and Sean Forrest
Local talks: Fathers Patrick Behm, Shane Deman and Brian Feller and Katherine Dea
Service project: Then Feed Just One
Mass: Celebrated by Bishop Walker Nickless
Questions: Kara Kardell at (712) 233-7516 or firstname.lastname@example.org.