By Jessica Able, Record Staff Writer
High school students in the Archdiocese of Louisville are invited to attend an evening of praise and worship from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Jan. 26 at the Falls of Goshen, the former Transfiguration Church, 1620 S. Highway 1793, Goshen, Ky.
“Exalt: A Festival of Praise and Worship,” hosted by the youth ministry at St. Bernadette Church, will be feature a talk by Deacon Gregory M. Gitschier. There will also be a performance by Christian rock music band Hardcore Truth Ministries.
The idea for the praise event originated with Erik Stearman, a parishioner at St. Bernadette and head of Hardcore Truth Ministries, a Catholic band and youth ministry effort.
Stearman said he saw first hand what an impact a praise and worship festival such as this can have on a young person’s faith life. His daughter, who is a sophomore at Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio, attends a similar event once a month at her college.
“My daughter told me ‘When I go to these things, I really feel close to God,’ ” he recalled.
Stearman, who has been involved in youth ministry at a number of parishes, said that many teens he’s come into contact with view God as “some far off deity.”
“Based on that, a lot of them don’t seem to give God too much thought,” he said. “We want to give them a sense that God is close and does care a lot about them.”
Stearman approached several other adults leaders — including Rick Rayome, a parishioner at St. Francis of Assisi Church and Kathy Easley, pastoral associate and youth minister at St. Bernadette Church — with the idea to hold an event centered on praising God.
The goal of the event, Rayome said, is to provide a festive environment for high school youth to have fun while praising God with songs and prayer. The event also is intended to inspire youth to “return” to the Mass.
The event will be hosted by the St. Bernadette Youth Ministry. Deacon Gitschier, a permanent deacon of St. Patrick Church — and a former Secret Service agent — will serve as the event’s keynote speaker.
“Exalt” has been a collaborative effort among several parishes including St. Patrick, St. Aloysius, St. Lawrence, St. Paul, Immaculate Conception and St. Bernadette churches.
Rayome said it was important to get high school students involved in the planning from the beginning, and said teens have been active in every aspect of the planning, from naming the event to marketing, promotion and recruitment.
Cameron Luker, a freshman at St. Xavier High School, has been a part of the leadership team. Luker said he has taken part in planning events before but never one made up of mainly teens.
“I strongly believe that when you are planning an event such as this, that having teens lead it will get other kids interested and will make sure that it focuses on parts of our religion that kids want to learn and grow in,” he said.
Luker said this program will give teens a chance to discover “that God is all around us and cares for us.”
Ryan Ecken, the youth minister at St. Lawrence Church, said he had been looking for something to draw high schoolers back in when he heard about “Exalt.”
“It’s really geared toward kids who haven’t had the retreat experience per se. It’s more an opening to light a fire or fan the flame that’s already been lit by their confirmation,” he said.
Mary McNeill, a freshman at Presentation Academy, sees this program evolving into something much bigger.
“I can definitely see it becoming a conference that occurs more than once a year,” said McNeill, a parishioner at St. Lawrence Church.
And that’s exactly what Stearman and Rayome hope occurs.
“Our vision for this is for it to be an ongoing thing. We’d like to see it in the archdiocese every quarter,” Stearman said.
Rayome suggested hosting the event at a different location within the archdiocese each time. That way teens will be able to connect with other teens they may not have met before, Rayome said.
Rayome said he also hopes to see eucharistic adoration included as a component in future events.
High school students who want to attend “Exalt” may contact the youth minister at their parish or simply come to the event. No registration is required and the event is free of charge.