Youthful celebration of faith

By  Luc Rinaldi, The Catholic Register
  • July 28, 2010
OCY rallyMIDLAND, Ont. - This year’s Office of Catholic Youth Rally introduced a variety of new features, but it retained enough of its old flavour to make the experience what it’s always been for revellers.

John Dawson, program co-ordinator and music director for the July 23-25 rally, has been involved with the Office of Catholic Youth (OCY) for more than a decade. He said the youthful spirit is alive and well.

“The rally is really about celebrating the faith, connecting with other youth and commissioning them in the Lord,” said Dawson.

Modelled after World Youth Day, the OCY rally (with the theme Follow Me) allows youth to spend a weekend with new friends who share a similar passion for the Catholic faith. Since its creation in the early 1990s, under then OCY director Fr. Norm Roberts at the Markham Fairgrounds, the rally has always been the peak event of the OCY’s year. Featuring catechesis sessions led by bishops, reconciliation and daily Mass, the rally allows for faith development integrated into a friendly and high-energy environment of music and activities.

“No matter what we’re doing, it’s in the context of coming together in the name of God,” said Dawson.

From stations of the cross on the night participants arrived to a concert featuring Catholic singer/songwriter Sarah Hart on Saturday night, each event was designed to celebrate Catholic faith.

More than 500 youth attended this year’s rally, nearly doubling last year’s total. The growth was largely due to the archdiocese of Toronto’s sponsorship program, new to the rally this year. Youth from every parish in the archdiocese were sponsored and attended for free. The group of participants was led by about 30 volunteer leaders and five OCY staff.

“Everyone is just really excited to be here,” said volunteer leader and rally MC Shantel Jose. “The fellowship is amazing.”

Jose, who will be entering her third year at the University of Toronto in the fall, and other leaders organized and planned for the rally for several months. The volunteers are really the backbone of the event, said Dawson. This group, consisting of students, adults and clergy, maintain a presence with participants, ensuring that they’re taking as much as they can from the weekend.

Also new to the rally this year was a self-directed retreat program, offered to participants older than 25. Led by Fr. Len Altilia, S.J., this allowed older participants to enjoy the same experience as the other young people in attendance, while focusing more strongly on the spiritual needs of someone who is beginning a new career or about to start a family.

“The rally’s whatever you want it to be,” said Andrew Vijayakumar, rally participant and recent graduate of Monsignor Percy Johnson Catholic High School in Toronto.

There are a variety of different things that the rally offers, says Vijayakumar; it’s up to the participant to take something positive out of the experience back to their everyday life.

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