Keynote speaker Andy Wagenbach traveled to Hudson for the Ignite Youth Rally with his youth group from St. Charles Borromeo, in St. Anthony, Minnesota. Director of youth and young adult ministry for the parish, Wagenbach encouraged teens to let their hearts ignite. (Catholic Herald photo by Anita Draper)

Anita Draper
Catholic Herald staff

More than 400 students, chaperones and catechists from the Diocese of Superior and Minnesota traveled to St. Patrick, Hudson, Wednesday, Oct. 30, for the Ignite Youth Rally.

Teens and chaperones from St. Patrick, St. Bridget, River Falls; Immaculate Conception, Grantsburg; Immaculate Conception, New Richmond; St. Joseph, Amery; Our Lady of the Lakes, Balsam Lake; St. Mary, Hammond; St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church, from St. Anthony, Minnesota; and St. Anne, Somerset; gathered to share food, faith and fellowship.

The crowd clapped, sang in Prince-style falsetto and danced to musician Nate Reinhardt’s icebreaker, a song that invited listeners to “go down, down, down to the river to pray.”

Guest speaker Andy Wagenbach riled the group with a crowd-vs.-computer game of ‘rock, paper, scissors’ that finished with a championship match between Wisconsin and Minnesota youths (Minnesota won) followed by a guess-the-Bible-story-in-emojis game.

Wagenbach’s third game was a classic, “Simon says.” After a small group of winners was declared, the crowd prayed together before students stopped for dinner.

The rally was the first of the 2019-20 school year; Merrill’s rally was cancelled to encourage youths to attend the Chris Stefanick event Nov. 12. Rice Lake hosts the final rally of the season in March.

Youth rallies change in style and scope from year to year, said Peggy Schoenfuss, superintendent of diocesan schools and director of Catholic Formation. Some years, there’s a full Mass; this year, the evening included a pizza dinner and a keynote address from Wagenbach followed by Eucharistic adoration.

Reinhardt led a song and prayers after dinner. Worship is “our response to the revelation of God in our lives,” Reinhardt said. There are only two times you don’t worship, he explained. If you refuse to see God, you do not worship. Or, if you see God working but you are “too timid, too self-conscious, too afraid to respond,” you do not worship.

He encouraged students to not be afraid, and asked them to try to remember how God is working in their lives.

Wagenbach returned to the stage. He observed that most students were probably forced to be there as a requirement for confirmation, but he invited them to choose to be there as well.

He asked the crowd, “When you hear the word ‘Ignite,’ what do you see in your mind?” Answers varied – fire, nighttime, stars, a spark.

Even if you have the right fuel, you will never start a fire without a spark, Wagenbach observed.

He chose two passages from Scriptures related to ‘ignite.’ In the first passage from Luke: 12, Jesus says to his apostles, “I have come to ignite a fire on the earth, and I wish that it was already burning.”

Wagenbach related this to his personal experience of faith. It took him until he was 18 years old “to figure out that faith was important.”

Despite being an altar server who almost never missed Mass, “I was an obligation Catholic,” he said.

When he was in high school, he went to a youth conference. The speaker talked about the idea that Christ wants to light something inside of us.

“He wants to ignite in us a desire for the fire,” Wagenbach said. “He wants us to turn towards him so fully that we might come ablaze.”

We hear that sometimes, but it doesn’t do anything in our lives, he admitted. Often we go to faith formation or Mass and feel bored and relieved when it’s over.

Tonight, you have an opportunity to allow yourselves to be ignited or just sit there, he added.

In the second Scripture passage, from Luke: 24, two men are on the road to Emmaus after Jesus’ death when Jesus shows up in their midst.
The last time they saw Jesus, it was during the Last Supper, and they finally recognize him when he repeats the breaking of the bread.
The passage shows the importance of the Eucharist, Wagenbach emphasized.

“You have an opportunity tonight to let your heart burn within you,” he repeated. “Christ wants to start something within you, he wants to ignite something within you.” He asked them to pray for the grace to open up to be ignited, “that we might become fully who we are called to be.”
Fr. John Gerritts carried in the monstrance, and adoration began.

Reinhardt explained what adoration was, and reviewed the Catholic belief in the true presence. He encouraged the crowd to kneel and pray, and told them “to always know where Jesus is in the room … keep your heart centered on Christ.”