Monday, October 15, 2001

Catholic teens affirm their faith at rally

By Randy Tucker
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Seventeen-year-old Paul Dehmer said the music, prayer and teen bonding at Sunday's World Youth Day Rally for Cincinnati was an experience that will stay with him a lifetime.

        “You can be yourself here and be proud of your religion,” said the St. Xavier High student, who is Catholic. “And you know that other people like you are out there.”

        After a year of planning, fund raising and prayer, 150 high-school students from 12 Tristate Catholic parishes gathered Sunday at St. Vivian Church in Finneytown for the second annual rally.

        Sponsored by youth ministers from the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, it came at a time when many are turning to religion to grapple with the fear and confusion connected with America's war on terrorism.

  • There are about 62 million Catholics in the United States, representing about 22 percent of the population.
  • A few decades ago, many Catholic schools were on the verge of closing. Now the demand is so great that some schools are turning students away. In the past decade, 250 Catholic schools have opened — 37 last year.
  • Clergy shortage is so acute nationally that 13 percent of every 100 Catholic parishes are without a resident priest.
  • A surge in immigrants from Latin America is reshaping the church. Hispanics now make up between 20 percent and 30 percent of the Catholic population nationally.
        The teens listened to guest speaker Tom Sparough, local musician and composer Bobby Fisher, and Who Do You Say That I Am, a Catholic music group. Mass followed the rally.

        "If you have your faith, and all you do is go to church, you're not spreading it to other people. That's why I'm here,” said Chuck Day, a 16-year-old St. X student.

        Marci Kerscher, director of the youth ministry at Bellarmine Chapel at Xavier University, said youth rallies help create a sense of community among future leaders.

        "A lot of times, kids don't realize they're part of a greater community,” Ms. Kerscher said. Rallies give “them a chance to see other teens living their faith.”


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