Spirits Soar Through Song

Aug. 7-20, 2003
Spirits Soar Through Song
By Eileen Jevis/ SUN staff writer
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
Teens learn how to share their gifts with others

Morrisville — Inspirational, heartwarming, and uplifting are just a few of the words that describe the Catholic Youth Fest that took place at SUNY Morrisville on Aug. 26 and 27. The atmosphere was upbeat and positive as approximately 160 young adults, representing 22 parishes throughout the diocese, sang, danced, performed skits and praised the Lord in a contemporary, beach party atmosphere. “Catch the Wave and Make a Splash” was the theme for the event and the teens did just that through workshops, social gatherings, liturgy preparation and the celebration of Mass. The workshops centered on teaching the teens about the gifts God has given them and how to use those gifts to help themselves and others. The teens explored their own admirable attributes and discussed how they could use them in a positive way in society through good decision making.

Brianne Baker, a 15-year-old parishioner at St. Joseph’s Church in LaFayette, shared the excitement of the weekend. “My mom read about this event and she thought it would be a good experience if I went. I really wanted to go because I had been to three gatherings like this before in Cortland and I really liked them. Once I got there, I didn’t know anybody. I didn’t think I would meet anyone or have any fun,” said Brianne. Her mom asked her to give it “just 15 minutes.” Soon, Brianne was caught up in the enthusiastic, interactive presentation of keynote speaker, Anna Scally and met new friends. Scally is the president of Cornerstone Media and is an inspiring youth rally speaker, youth ministry training consultant and a disk jockey. She travels throughout the U.S. from her home in Santa Rosa, Ca. to inspire “our young church.” She has been lauded as the “Pope’s DJ”. Scally facilitated a number of icebreaker exercises that had the teens leaving their seats and circling the auditorium to the beat of contemporary music. When the music stopped, the teens were required to face the person closest to them and in a 30-second period ask their partner, “If you had unlimited access to a credit card for 30 seconds, what would you buy?” The exercise required quick thinking and good decision making. Scally was effective and creative in relaying the messages of good decision making, risk taking and being a true friend.

“Let’s focus on the wave,” said Scally. “Each side of the wave represents the two types of people who are here this weekend. Those on one side are thinking, ‘Is it over yet? My friend bailed out on me and I’m not having a good time.’ Those are the people who can’t get past the barriers and walls of life and open up to what is good,” explained Scally. “The other half of the audience is made up of people of faith. Those who know they have been given gifts to give to others. They interact with confidence and make a difference here and in their church.” Emily Sherman, a first time participant at a youth conference, understood the message Scally was trying to convey. Sherman, a communicant of Holy Family Church in Syracuse, felt very strongly about Scally’s message. “I really liked her. She was very interesting,” said Emily. “She told us stories that had taken place in her own life and how they changed her.” Brianne agreed. “The keynote speaker put real life events into her talk which made me realize that there are bumps in your life and negative things in the world, but if you put your trust in the Lord and have a little faith, it would all work out,” said Brianne. Scally’s message was just that. She asked the audience to put their faith in the Lord and make the right choices. She told a story of her teen years and how a boy asked her to a high school dance and then dumped her two days before the event. “It hurt,” said Scally. “We all have the potential to hurt people. That is not what we are here to do. We all have the ability to love one another instead.” The audience was listening. Teresa Tyrrell, a 17-year-old member of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Syracuse, was impressed by what Scally had to say. “She brought up some extraordinary ideas about my faith that I had never thought about. She made some really wonderful points that I will use as I journey through life,” said Teresa. Scally continued to convey the importance of good decision making through examples of modern music. Out of the top 21 best songs of 2002 that portrayed a positive message, participants listened to and identified the top five. Careful not to put down the music or the artists, Scally talked about the negative lyrics found in what she called, the “dirty dozen,” and the 12 worst value songs of 2002. The teens easily recognized both sets of popular songs and the exercise brought about discussion on the messages music conveys. “Only 15 percent of teen music today have negative themes. However, 25 percent of popular music tells about positive values,” explained Scally. “Music itself does not cause problems. Problems are caused by poor decisions.” Many of the youths realized the wide range of contemporary music available that does not have negative lyrics. “I realize now that there is music that is positive to listen to without all the violence, sexual content or drugs,” said Teresa. Scally encouraged the teens to look at the values in their own life. “Bring to mind a friend,” Scally said. “How did that friendship come about? How has it developed? Close friends start taking on the characteristics of the person they are close to. By becoming close to Christ, you will become Christ-like,” explained Scally. “There will never be another you to walk this earth.”

Scally petitioned the “young church” to make a positive difference in their parish and in their community. “People of faith make a difference in the world. They take risks. They don’t judge people.” Through the use of music, Scally was able to demonstrate to her audience that she does not judge the musical artists. She judges the lyrics and whether or not they appropriately reflect Christian values. A lot of friendships were formed as a result of Scally’s enlightening and interactive presentation and the thought-provoking workshops. E-mail addresses and phone numbers were exchanged. “This conference was different than the others that I’ve attended,” said Brianne. This one made you interact with people more and made you depend on the people around you, not just your friends.” Emily was also glad she went. “I made friends with people from Our Lady of Lourdes,” she said.

“I had a really great time,” said Teresa. I hope that new people will join us next year for the Youth Fest. It’s a great way to experience your faith and fellowship with the Lord.”

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