Students pray during the 2021 Wisconsin Catholic Youth Rally. (Photos by Jacob Spotts Photography)
It’s a particularly fitting theme for this year’s Wisconsin Catholic Youth Rally. In so many ways, that’s been the watchword for the last two years as people of all ages — and especially the youth — struggle to maintain a sense of normalcy in an ever-changing world.
The rally, slated for the weekend of March 18 and 19, will be an invitation to explore that which is eternally unchanging and life-giving — “the Father’s sustaining love for us,” said Brian Magliocco, executive director of Arise Milwaukee. “That sustaining love never runs out, no matter what we have done or what we might do.”
Arise Milwaukee is the host of the conference at the Shattuck Music Center at Carroll University in Waukesha. Saturday, March 18, will be the Catholic School Edition of the rally (open to groups of Catholic school students in grades six through eight) from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The following day’s events will run from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and are open to all middle and high school students and their chaperones.
It is the first year that both high school and middle school students will attend on the same day, said Magliocco, a move which should cut down on transportation costs and chaperone scheduling conflicts. The two groups will have a short opening session and will attend Mass together at the end of the day, but all other programming will take place separately.
The lineup of speakers will be the same for both days, featuring archdiocesan priests Fr. Enrique Hernandez and Fr. Aaron Laskiewicz, as well as Rachel Herbeck, director of missionaries for id (Intentional Disciples), and Colin MacIver, a youth minister, writer and teacher. The Josh Blakesley Band will provide worship music. Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki will preside at Mass on Saturday.
A special Arise Worship Night is also planned at Carroll University from 7 to 9 p.m. on the evening of March 18. The event is free and open to the public of all ages and will offer Eucharistic adoration, a message by Herbeck and music from the Josh Blakesley Band.
Registration for the rally is open until March 10 and can be completed online at arisemke.org/wcyr. The registration fee for the Catholic Schools Edition is $20 and includes a snack. The fee is $30 for the Middle and High School edition on Saturday, and includes lunch and a snack.
Magliocco said that this year Arise Milwaukee is encouraging families to consider attending together.
“It could be a great mother/daughter or father/son day, or an opportunity for a family with a handful of teens to come together,” he said. “It might be a powerful experience for the parents, too. Just because it’s a youth event doesn’t mean that the content doesn’t fit Catholics of all ages. The Mass, adoration, prayer and worship crosses any age-specific lines.”
This year’s rally is especially exciting, said Magliocco, because it marks a return to Carroll University and fully in-person programming. Last year, due to the pandemic, the rally was partially virtual, there were low limits on capacity and the hours were shortened.
The mission of the WCYR, after all, is really one and the same as the mission of Arise Milwaukee — to inspire people to fall in love with Christ in the Catholic Church.
“Christ is a person, and we encounter him ‘in person.’ Virtual things have been great and have helped us get through these difficult times, but at the end of the day, it’s never going to take the place of meeting Christ in person,” he said. “Watching adoration on TV is never going to feel the same or have the same effect because you’re not in front of the person of Christ in the Eucharist. For teenagers especially, it’s a big thing — to feel accepted, to feel wanted, to feel part of a community. And the Catholic Church is a community of the Body of Christ. When we gather together for a conference or a retreat or Mass on Sunday, we’re able to encounter the living Body of Christ that much more.”