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 | By Sister Teresa Benedicta, OP | Guest Columnist

Rally focuses hundreds of middle schoolers on Jesus

How do you bring the Eucharistic Revival to middle school students? While parish youth groups often attend retreats and diocesan gatherings during the summer, many Catholic school students depend on their Catholic schools for their faith formation. Therefore, I envisioned a diocesan gathering of youth from the Catholic schools. This vision became a reality last October when the Diocese of Austin brought its middle schools together for a Eucharistic Rally. Eleven Catholic schools participated in the day with over 600 young people gathered in prayer and fellowship.

The Eucharistic Rally had two talks given by Life Teen missionaries from Georgia. These young adults shared their faith in the Eucharist and how God’s presence is the greatest gift a person can receive. Their personal witness of a life given to God as well as their joy in the Lord was powerful.

Students enjoyed spending time with their peers from other Catholic schools. They realized they weren’t the only students who wear uniforms, pray lectio divina, or know the words to Catholic hymns. The students also had time for fellowship and fun with one another.

One middle schooler said, “I liked that we got to talk to people from other schools. The only time we really get to see them is in sports when we're competing against them. When we’re playing sports, though, we don’t really like the other team. At the rally we got to know them and saw that we all love Jesus.”

Gian Gamboa, a gifted Catholic speaker and director of Formation and Ministry at St. Dominic Savio Catholic High School, and a team of students from St. Dominic Savio led the students in praise and worship. The entire church was filled with teenagers singing praises to God. “I really prayed with the music. Being able to be in God's presence and listen to what he was saying to me was amazing. I was really grateful for that,” one teen reflected.

Bishop Joe Vásquez celebrated Mass and shared how every person has moments in life when he/she just wants to give up. He told the young people that God wants them to bring those moments of darkness to him because it is precisely in the hardest moments of life that God gives us himself in the Eucharist. In the Eucharist, men and women receive the strength to truly see God, he said.

The Eucharistic Rally culminated with adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. As all present knelt before the Eucharist, students were invited to leave their pews and pray at the foot of the altar if they felt called to do so. I thought maybe 10 or 15 brave souls would come forward; instead, 150 teens surrounded the Blessed Sacrament, praying with all their hearts.

“I will remember how powerful it was to think that so many people want to be closer to the Eucharist. There was a lot of people around the altar just wanting to be close to God,” one middle schooler said.

Another eighth-grade boy testified, “I will always remember how close I felt to Jesus that day, and I think it has changed my life drastically. I can never think of Jesus the same way again! I will also remember the feeling of how powerful the faith is, and I really felt it when a lot of people went up to the altar during adoration. I am grateful just that Jesus came to me and really helped me feel his presence that day.”

May God continue to bless each of these young people. May God bless the many generous volunteers, teachers and school leaders who made this day a reality. God is truly with us in the Eucharist, and we praise him for his many gifts.

Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, is the middle school religious teacher at Holy Family Catholic School in Austin.