Youth take part in One Rock youth gathering in 2017 in Calgary. The next One Rock gathering is in September. Photo courtesy of Grandin Media

Alberta's One Rock youth festival, 'Catholic Woodstock', changes for digital age

By  Chris Berthelot, Canadian Catholic News
  • August 2, 2018

EDMONTON – Organizers are making big changes to One Rock, a major Alberta Catholic youth gathering, in the hope of strengthening young people in their faith.

“We want to empower them to go back into their communities, invigorated and inspired to help in the proclamation of the Gospel,” said Fr. Cristino Bouvette, vocations director for the Diocese of Calgary, which is hosting One Rock 2.0 on Sept. 29 at St. Michael’s Parish.

“This is an entire generation of people who have been profoundly impacted, for good or bad, by the Internet and social media. We need to learn to be good digital contributors to evangelization, (and) we’ve tried to address that with the speakers that we are bringing in, who are all very avid users of social media.”

One Rock 2.0 targets young adults between the ages of 18 and 35. Admission is free, although organizers welcome donations.

In 2017, more than 1,400 people attended each day in the former three-day festival format, which allowed for overnight camping. The event’s founder, Fr. Krystian Golisz of the Calgary diocese, called it a “Catholic Woodstock.”

However, Bouvette said organizers noticed that the festival theme had lost its focus in recent years. The new one-day version of One Rock will feature keynote speakers who will “inspire, challenge and equip” young people to become good evangelists, especially in the online world, he said.

Among the featured speakers are podcaster and former Catholic Answers host Patrick Coffin, YouTube personality Lizzie Reezay, a recent convert to Catholicism, and Brian Holdsworth of Edmonton, who explores faith issues on his popular YouTube channel.

When it comes to young people, the Church needs to reach out, Holdsworth said.

“They are a key demographic that I think we should be focusing on with respect to evangelization, just because there are a lot of voices competing for their interest. A lot of those voices don’t have their best interest at heart, so I think the Church needs to really double down and make a concerted effort to offer what it has in the midst of those competing voices.”

Parishes and dioceses across Alberta and the Northwest Territories have been invited to send groups of young people to One Rock. After the number of youth delegates is confirmed, the remaining seats will be open to the public. Those interested can currently pre-register for available seats.

Some elements of the original One Rock remain. A house band of local musicians will entertain between presentations. And bishops from Alberta and the Northwest Territories will attend and celebrate Mass at the end of the day.

Developing One Rock 2.0 has had its challenges. The conference is operating on a shoestring budget, approximately half that of previous years. There was also uncertainty over whether the delegation model will be understood and whether it might affect attendance.

“Change for anybody can be a challenge,” said Michael Chaisson, a frequent MC for One Rock since it began in 2010. “For me personally, I think the idea of the change was a courageous step. The response has been great, and I think it’s going to be a phenomenal event.”

Bouvette remains confident that One Rock 2.0 will be a success.

“I’m hoping it will be for young adults two things: not just an opportunity to come and learn and receive from the speakers, but also an opportunity to be inspired by each other.”

(Grandin Media)

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