SURREY—It was a weekend full of cheering and excitement for the Catholic faith as 1,778 Grade 7 students gathered in one auditorium for Spirit Day Nov. 4 and 5.
“It was really fun! The band hyped up everything. We were all jumping around and excited,” said Vanessa, a student from Our Lady of Mercy Elementary in Burnaby.
Grade 7 students from 69 schools, parishes, and other groups met at the Chandos Pattison Auditorium in Surrey for Spirit Day, an annual event aimed at getting 12 and 13 year olds excited about the sacrament of confirmation.
About 21,000 Catholic pre-teens have participated in the program since it launched in 2005.
“I feel like I got more open to Christ,” said Bella. “I’m one of those people who hates listening to lectures. But when they were explaining, I love how they sang and made it more our age appropriate.”
Spirit Day, which students could attend on Saturday or Sunday, included Mass with Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB, adoration, praise and worship with Los Angeles-based band WAL, and performances by entertainers from Brooklyn-based APeX Ministries.
“You were made for greatness,” APeX’s Brad Farmer told a sea of enthusiastic elementary school children after he juggled pins and balls while telling a story about saints.
“Saints had ordinary lives, but they lived them and shined out with greatness. The way you treat your mom, dad, brother, or sister; the way you treat people at the mall; the way you treat people at the theatre; the way you treat people who drive you crazy; is the way you treat your God, a God who asks: do you love me?”
Farmer encouraged the children to become superheroes. “You were made for greatness because God is great and God wants to shine out through us.”
“You can ask a Grade 7 to be thoughtful. You can ask them to be respectful. You can’t ask them to stop being 13,” fellow entertainer Gene Monterastelli told The B.C. Catholic. “We are able to engage them where they are.”
Farmer and Monterastelli created APeX 21 years ago to reach out to Catholic teens and pre-teens with positive messages and a lot of laughs. They've been part of Spirit Day since its inception.
“We wanted to give back to what we had (growing up). That’s where it came from: if we were giving back, what would we do? We were already jugglers and we liked to tell stories.”
Their new ministry got a jump start, Monterastelli said, because at the time, the only other options for entertainment at youth rallies were men with guitars and female chastity speakers.
“Because we had such a contrast, we got opportunities in the beginning that we wouldn’t have otherwise.” APeX first performed in Rochester, NY, and has since juggled and told stories to young people across the U.S. and Canada.
This year, as in years past, they were a hit with the Grade 7s of the Archdiocese of Vancouver.
“It was really fun. I really liked the comedians. That was my favourite part,” said Jeffrey.
Rosa agreed. “The juggling was really cool.” After Spirit Day, she “felt more connected to God.”
Archbishop Miller, in keeping with the day's theme, also encouraged the children to aspire
“Not only is God great, he has given us a share in his greatness,” he said during his homily.
“The biggest reason why we can claim to be great is not that we are great at school or sports or music, or some other activity, but because God himself created us. He created us in his image and likeness … To be the object of God’s love is to be great.”
An estimated 2,210 people, including Grade 7 students, adult leaders, and volunteers, participated in Spirit Day this year.