How did the Wisconsin Catholic Youth Rally pivot at the beginning of the pandemic?
The 15th anniversary of the Wisconsin Catholic Youth Rally was scheduled to take place in March 2020. The day before the rally is when the NBA suspended their season. It would have been our biggest attendance ever; we expected 1,850 kids between the two days.
So how did you react to the NBA’s announcement?
The next day was our setup. And that’s when Gov. Evers said no groups over 250 people. So, literally, we had everything set up for the event, and we had to take it all down, and it was really surreal. We ended up making it up as an entirely virtual event in May. And then, this last year, we did a virtual in-person hybrid. People could choose which one they wanted to do. So we did have it this year, and we intend to go back to 100 percent in-person next March at Carroll University.
How did the Wisconsin Catholic Youth Rally get started?
In 2006, I was right out of college and a youth minister at the time. We felt called to do a Steubenville-type conference for high schoolers here in Milwaukee. And so, we launched with the blessing of Cardinal (Timothy) Dolan.
What made you decide to minister to high schoolers?
At the time, middle school ministry wasn’t super popular in the archdiocese. And it was just a group of us that had been to Steubenville Youth Conferences, as participants, as college student leaders, as a chaperone or a youth minister. Why can’t we do something like that here? I personally went to Franciscan University in Steubenville, and I loved my experience there. I know that’s been formative for my faith and also the way that I am as a person, a husband and a father now. About five years later, we were feeling like the Lord was calling us to serve middle schoolers, too. We added a middle school edition on Sunday to go along with the existing high school edition on Saturday. Two years ago, right before COVID-19, we felt like the Lord was calling us to serve Catholic school students, which led us to launch a Friday school-day event for Catholic middle school students.
Your mission at Arise Milwaukee is to help facilitate encounters with Christ and the Catholic Church. How has that mission expanded?
Arise Milwaukee, through the events we offer, truly serves the whole gamut of ages. Besides the Wisconsin Catholic Youth Rally and The Spark for teenagers and the Arise Saturday Nights and Cor Jesu that serve young adults and adults, this past summer we had our very first Arise Family Day, and we had more than 500 people attend. All the kids there had a great time, and we’re going to do it again as an annual event. We felt there was a need to serve both the children and their parents. To have an event that they could both come to, have fun, be together, yet the parents are interacting with adults and the kids are interacting with kids, is amazing. Arise Milwaukee strives to go where the Lord is calling us. We’ll see where the Holy Spirit takes us next.
You have an event coming up — a group consecration to St. Joseph — culminating on the Feast of St. John Paul II on Oct. 22 with a Holy Hour with Archbishop Listecki.
We desire to serve where there is a need in the archdiocese. We felt like there weren’t a lot of opportunities around the archdiocese for a group effort of a consecration to St. Joseph happening in the Year of St. Joseph. We decided to go forward with offering the Consecration to anyone interested, in collaboration with St. Sebastian’s Parish in Milwaukee. We kicked it off on Monday, Sept. 20, with the book “Consecration to St. Joseph – The Wonders of Our Spiritual Father” by Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC.
What will happen on Oct. 22?
To end the consecration, we’re going to have a Holy Hour at St. Sebastian’s Parish with Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki. During the Holy Hour, people can make their consecration as a larger community. They do not have to have participated in the 33-day consecration preparation to do the consecration that evening, but, of course, you’ll get more out of [the experience] by doing it. This is an example of a one-time initiative that Arise Milwaukee tries to get involved in when we feel the Holy Spirit is leading us.