Joyful songs for the Lord

HARTINGTON – Time flew by for Sydney Becker.
A senior at Cedar Catholic High School in Hartington, she and more than 500 other students from six schools gathered Feb. 28 for a Lenten Faith Rally inspired by the archdiocese’s pastoral vision.
“I wish we had more time – the day is going too fast,” Becker proclaimed after dancing with third-grader Morgan Kutchta of East Catholic School in Bow Valley.
Father Owen Korte, pastor of Holy Trinity Parish in Hartington and president of Cedar Catholic High, thought of the rally and helped organize it in Hartington to promote the pastoral vision, “One church: encountering Jesus, equipping disciples, living mercy.”
“The purpose was to have the kids really have an uplifting experience of church right here in our local area,” Father Korte said. “The success of this event was palpable.”
First-graders through seniors in Catholic schools in the rural north-central deanery learned about and celebrated the faith throughout the day, highlighted by Mass in Holy Trinity Church and the rally in nearby Holy Trinity School’s Werner Activity Center. Danny Leger of Omaha provided inspirational music, students shared and danced, priests presented the vision’s themes, and all participated in adoration of the Eucharist.
“The best part of the day was singing for the Lord,” said Ryan Pick, a fifth-grader from Holy Trinity School. “It was funner than missing school.”
Father James Keiter, pastor of St. John the Baptist Parish in Fordyce, St. Joseph Parish in Constance and St. Boniface Parish in Menominee, spoke to the students at the Mass about being one church. Everyone has the same goal: finding a path to heaven, said Father Keiter, who also teaches at Cedar Catholic High and is administrator of West Catholic School in Fordyce.
Filing into the elementary school, children from the six schools, which also included St. Rose of Lima School in Crofton and St. Mary School in Osmond, were greeted by Leger’s music and divided into groups led by the high school students.
Father Eric Olsen, pastor of Holy Family Parish in Cedar County, which includes churches in Bow Valley, St. Helena and Wynot, talked with them about encountering Christ, reminding them they must see Jesus in everyone, even their enemies. 
“Recognize Jesus in people who are fingernails on the chalk board of your life,” Father Olsen said. 
Father Timothy Forgét, pastor of St. Frances de Chantal Parish in Randolph and St. Mary of the Seven Dolors Parish in Osmond, talked about becoming disciples of the Lord, and compared being equipped for heaven with skills acquired playing a video game.
“The more you practice, the better equipped you become,” he said. “Pray, say the rosary, tell God your stuff, and listen. God wants to talk to our hearts, but we have to be quiet and listen.”
After a sack lunch, Leger got the students up and moving to “Lean on Me” with hand gestures and audience participation. The students didn’t hold back on sharing their faith and a few dance moves. 
And the final speaker, Father Timothy Podraza, pastor of St. Rose of Lima Parish in Crofton and St. Andrew Parish in Bloomfield, focused on living mercy. 
Once equipped and open to mercy – which is free to anyone who asks – things change, Father Podraza said. The easiest way to experience God’s mercy is through the sacrament of reconciliation, he said. 
When the priest says, “I absolve you of your sins,” there follows divine mercy and forgiveness, and that opens the door to change, he said.
The rally ended with lights out in the activity center, and more than 500 people holding battery powered tea lights. Spotlights illuminated the Blessed Sacrament.
Accompanied by the subtle strums of a guitar, Father Korte processed slowly with the Eucharist in a monstrance as the children lifted their tea lights in praise and honor of the Lord’s presence.
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