CATHOLIC HERALD STAFF
Providing a glimpse of the Universal Church in exciting and new ways is the purpose of an upcoming retreat for middle and high school students. The annual Wisconsin Catholic Youth Rally brings students together for a day of prayer, worship, sacraments — and a live band.
“It’s an opportunity for youth and youth ministers to have an encounter with Jesus Christ that is different from what they are used to experiencing,” said event coordinator AJ Garcia. Garcia serves as executive director of Arise Milwaukee, the non-profit organization responsible for putting on the rally.
The genesis of the Wisconsin Catholic Youth Rally was more than a decade ago when a group of friends saw the need for a dynamic youth retreat in Milwaukee. Brian Magliocco, Wisconsin Catholic Youth Rally conference director, was in that group of friends.
“Every year our desire is help students have an encounter with Jesus Christ,” Magliocco said. “We all have a need and a desire in our hearts that can be met only in Jesus Christ.”
The theme of this year’s event, “Broken,” is rooted in that need.
“Everyone has brokenness, whether that be hurt from loss, sin, or struggles from other experiences,” Magliococco said. “Before we can encounter Christ, we have to acknowledge the brokenness in our life. Then, after we fully surrender our brokenness to Jesus, he can transform it and heal us.”
Wisconsin Catholic Youth Rally kicked off as a high school event 14 years ago, and six years later a day-long event for middle school students was offered. But it’s not just for students, Magliocco said. It’s an opportunity for families, parish youth groups, friends and neighbors to come together in Christ.
Highlights of this year’s rally, which will take place March 16 and 17 at Carroll University, will include speakers Nic Frank and Lauren Wright. Frank has been serving the Church and sharing the Gospel for more than a decade as a youth minister and missionary. Wright is a youth minister in Illinois and has been serving the young adults, high school, and middle school students for three years. The Blakesley Band will be providing live music throughout the event. Bishop Jeffrey Haines and Fr. Aaron Laskiewicz will celebrate Mass.
Helping to keep the energy high during the event is a group of 10-20 teens called the God Squad. The members of the squad are part of the year-long formation initiative “Spark.”
“Spark meets every month from November through May to prepare youth to step into that role as a lifelong Catholic,” Garcia said. “The program equips participants to evangelize and live the faith in a culture that makes it increasingly difficult.”
Events like the rally are important, Garcia said, because it reinforces what youth are learning in their own homes and churches, but in a different space and context. “Not all youth are able to experience a sense of belonging in the Church,” Garcia said. “This experience may not be transformative for everyone, but I believe it’s a powerful opportunity to experience faith in a new way.”
Registration for the Wisconsin Catholic Youth Rally is now open. Visit wicatholicyr.org to learn more, or contact Brian Magliocco at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions.