Story and Photos by Beth Donze, Clarion Herald
CYO groups from across the archdiocese will converge upon St. Angela Merici’s schoolyard July 26-27 to mount an overnight pro-life fundraiser featuring lighthearted hourly themes, friendly competition and midnight Mass.
The Friday-night-through-Saturday-morning celebration, dubbed the “Rose Rally for Life,” will benefit three local pro-life agencies: the Woman’s New Life Center and ACCESS Pregnancy Centers, which support expectant mothers and their unborn children; and Rachel’s Vineyard, which offers healing to those who have had an abortion.
The rally will roll on the grounds of St. Angela Merici, 901 Beverly Garden Drive in Metairie, from 9 p.m., July 26, through 6 a.m., July 27.
“It’s a unifying thing, because our own CYO gets to come together and be creative, and we also get to come together as a parish and an archdiocese to celebrate pro-life causes,” said Leigha Story, a Mount Carmel senior who is helping to plan the event as president of St. Angela’s CYO.
“It’s just a great way to help the women who are in need and help the babies who are dying every day through abortion,” Story said.
Young people and adult leaders from 10 CYOs have signed up to date, and more are encouraged to take part by registering by July 15. Generating proceeds will be a registration fee of $20 per person and the participating CYOs’ on-site sales of food and drinks.
Popular template revived
The inaugural rally is modeled after another overnight fundraiser for teens that ran for about 15 years at various host parishes – the “Relay for Life,” benefiting the American Cancer Society. When that event was discontinued three years ago, St. Angela’s teens worked with their youth leader, Diane Kratochvil, to resurrect Relay for Life’s successful template of inviting multiple CYOs to an overnight, fair-style event; but they switched the fundraising focus to a different pro-life cause: the unborn.
“Everyone enjoyed (Relay for Life) in our CYO, so we were kind of disappointed when we didn’t have it anymore,” recalled Matthew Lulich, a Jesuit senior and St. Angela CYO’s service chair.
“I like the community kind of thing – all the CYOs coming together,” Lulich added. “The only time we really see (that) is at World Youth Day and Abbey Youth Fest. Just having 10 to 15 CYOs all together on one night, raising money for a good cause – and doing all the fun things we do – is what everyone enjoyed about it.”
Accent on fun, silliness
The theme of the Rose Rally will be “Oh! The Places They’ll Go.” Each participating CYO will be assigned a different book by Dr. Seuss on which to base the decoration of a spirit stick, booth and booth sales, such as food, drinks and novelties.
“One CYO was assigned the book, ‘I Am NOT Going to Get Up Today,’ so they’re selling naps – they’ll have spaces where you can take a nap – and they’re also selling coffee to keep everyone awake,” Story said.
Throughout the night, rally participants will walk on a marked track while wearing simple costumes and accessories connected with a shifting hourly theme, such as “Patriotic,” “Hawaiian” and “Super Hero.” Other highlights will include live music; a “Rally Olympics” – composed of goofy games such as Egg-and-Spoon Relay and Ships and Sailors; a “No-Talent Talent Show” recognizing the “best” of bad singers and dancers; and prizes for the “Most Spirited” individual and team.
A midnight Mass, also planned and facilitated by the CYO teens, will be celebrated in church by Father Beau Charbonnet, St. Angela’s pastor.
To extend the fundraising to parishes, participating CYO groups are being asked to sell pro-life paper roses outside of their respective churches on a weekend sanctioned by their pastor. To guide those who purchase a rose, the donation slip lists the prices of common life-affirming services: $25 covers the cost of a pregnancy test; an ultrasound costs $50; and $100 provides two counseling sessions for a woman or a couple experiencing an unplanned pregnancy.
Teens maturing in their faith
Story and Lulich, both members of Teen C.R.O.S.S. and St. Angela’s pastoral council, hope the upcoming rally will give teens added courage and clarity in asserting their pro-life beliefs in their parishes, schools and wider community.
“As we’re growing up and taking bigger steps toward our futures, we’re learning about the stuff that’s happening in the world through social media, and so you have to kind of form an opinion on it,” said Story, who also serves Mount Carmel’s Teens for Life, campus ministry, student council and Pets Are Worth Saving (PAWS) groups.
Lulich, whose activities at Jesuit include Sodality, peer support and campus ministry, said spending an occasional Saturday morning praying with his high school’s pro-life group outside the Planned Parenthood facility on South Claiborne Avenue is something he feels called to do, given the many healthy young children in his extended family. He said teens who might be reluctant to publicly express their faith might just need an extra nudge to attend events such as the Rose Rally for Life.
“You’ll meet people who won’t want to do (a faith-related event), but if you keep asking them it might actually change their life,” Lulich said.
Story’s experience as a young Catholic evangelizer has taught her that although her peers might not always agree with her – and even react angrily – it’s OK.
“You have to be vulnerable and just express your ideas honestly and be willing to listen to others,” Story said. “But you also have to stand firm in your faith.”
Participation is open to registered CYO members in grades 5-12 and their adult chaperones (must be safe-environment compliant; one adult for every 10 teens). Youth attendees must be covered by CYO insurance. Clergy and religious can also register; $20 per person. Participants are asked to refrain from bringing outside food and drink and to bring cash in small denominations to purchase these items.
For information, call St. Angela Merici’s parish office at 835-0324, ext. 309, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.