Fr. Graham Keep from the Diocese of London led eucharistic adoration and Mass at this year’s Lift Jesus Higher youth rally. Photo by Jean Ko Din

Youth celebrate the meaning of mercy at annual rally

By  Julia Swist, Youth Speak News
  • March 11, 2016

TORONTO - About 1,000 youth and their families gathered together at Metro Toronto Convention Centre’s John Bassett Theatre to learn about a simple five-letter word that most of us struggle to understand: mercy.

On March 5, Catholic Renewal Ministries hosted its annual Lift Jesus Higher Rally. From Q & A sessions to live music, the Lift Jesus Higher youth rally exemplified how to best evangelize to youth. 

“The great act of forgiveness, of truth, Jesus stretches out His arms,” said Fr. Graham Keep. “Even when He has suffered disgrace, beatings, rejection, abandonment and the weight of sin... So in front of the Blessed Sacrament let us renounce sin, the stuff that blocks our hearts, the stuff that dulls our consciences.”

This year’s theme was “The Unshakable Kingdom” which talked to youth about how God’s love is expressed through His mercy. The rally was interactive and it captured audiences’ attention.

The most entertaining part of the day was when volunteers went into the audience and got to know people on a more personal level. From asking simple questions like what’s your name to what do you think the world was like before the Internet, volunteers tried to get to know the audience. 

The most surprising part of the day was seeing not just youth in the crowd, but young families. Maria Komljanec, a mother who brings her family to the youth rally every year, said she loves being able to share the experience as a family.

“It’s a wonderful experience, a faith-building experience,” said Komljanec. “As a parent, I feel it is my obligation to teach my kids how to get to know God and I’m really hoping this is the way that will make a little bit of a difference like a ripple in the water.”

Komljanec said last year’s rally had such a positive impact on her family that this year she decided to organize the youth of her parish to join them.

Event organizer Robert Raisp said the organizing team is always looking to find new ways to keep invigorating the crowds with their faith, especially the youth.

“We really believe that people are hungry for it and we really think that youth are especially hungry for it,” said Raisp. “What we’re trying to do is build on what was already established here which is a great ministry and hopefully try to stay with the times.”

Raisp has been helping organize the rally for two years before he became its main organizer this year. Moving forward, he said the rally has to keep up with new media and new technology to engage both the youth and adult rallies, but it must be done without losing the spiritual experience.

Raisp said the plan next year is to partner with the Toronto Catholic District School Board to host rallies in the schools on March 3, 2017, a day before the youth rally on March 4.

“On Saturday we’ll have the traditional event like we do right now... and see if we can get a Friday event as well which would then give us teachers and hopefully give us another 12, 13 other kids that we can evangelize,” said Raisp.

(Swist, 17, is a Grade 11 student at Loretto Abbey Catholic Secondary School in Toronto.)

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