Youth Festival mixes fun with faith

Several times each year there are opportunities for the youth of St. Michael Parish in Wauchula to have fun while at the same time growing closer to the Lord.

The latest Youth Festival brought a group of about 40 together on Feb. 27, 2021 with a variety of activities including talks, guided meditation, praying the rosary and the availability of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The day culminated with Holy Mass.

The religious women who serve the Parish, Servant Sisters of the Lord and the Virgin of Matara, guided the youth through the day, serving as an example by their presence but also joining in the fun and games.

One sister showed off a skill by performing an Irish dance for the group. During lunch sisters spread out and sat with the teens, sharing stories and enjoying the meal together.

Acclaimed speaker Gregory Stearns gave two talks focusing on the impact of lying and the impact it has on the individual as well as on others and society as a whole. Stearns first asked the teens to give examples when it is ok to lie, and later explained the impact that has in every aspect of their life as well as their relationship with God.

“When we lie, all we are trying to do is put forward a version of ourselves that is not real,” Stearns said. “The version of ourselves we put out there is done to make us feel better and so others will like us. The version of ourselves is not who God created.”

When he asked the group if after the talk they would keep lying, one young lady explained that she probably would, but would try hard not to.

This was the answer Stearns wanted to hear. “It is hard to try to be perfect and live up to the lofty expectations that the Lord has for us. Jesus knows we are not perfect, but He wants us to keep trying to improve and that is how we must strive to live our lives. It takes work, but as we take this path, we always have Jesus by our side.”

One of the boys who participated in the day said he likes participating in the events at St. Michael because it is a change from his usual weekend day of playing video games, watching TV shows or even finding ways to get into trouble with his friends.

“Every time the sisters have a festival, you know you are going to have fun,” he explained. And then with a big grin, he added. “Having the quiet time (in prayer and at Mass) is also good, because you can never pray too much.”

Sister Gema Ruiz, Director of Religious Education at St. Michael, explained that the Youth Festival was a huge success because each teen present wanted to be there. Some Parish events are required as part of sacramental preparation, but the recent festival was just for the teens to get together with no added pressure or expectations. “It is a good day. It shows in how they are reacting to each activity. They are having fun and they are learning that Jesus loves them.”