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Catholic Vancouver Oct. 15, 2018

Teacher’s Spirit Day experience keeps on giving

By Agnieszka Ruck

Grade 7 students at Spirit Day in 2017. (Photo courtesy of RCAV's Youth and Young Adult Ministry)

Sometimes unexpected experiences can make the most lasting impressions, especially for young teenagers. Just ask Clarissa Guevara.

Guevara, a teacher at St. Paul’s Elementary in Richmond, said a short drama production from Spirit Day years ago has stayed fresh in her mind since Grade 7.

“There’s always just something that really sticks with you. For me, it was that skit,” said Guevara.

She remembers two actors, depicting a young girl and Jesus, walking around the inside of a home. The girl tries to busy herself, flipping through magazines and finding things for Jesus to do, and he follows her around, silently. Guevara remembers the girl acting more and more annoyed at his presence, trying to distract him so she can get out of the house, until finally she hits a tipping point.

“Eventually, she says: ‘I don’t’ – and pushes him back, then pushes his arm – ‘need’ – then his other arm – ‘you!’ Then it’s Jesus, standing there with his arms out,” said Guevara, holding her own arms out in the shape of a cross.

“I remember sitting there when I was 12 or 13 thinking: Oh no! That’s what happens when you say: ‘I don’t need you.’ It struck me so much.”

Grade 5 teacher Clarissa Guevara attended the first-ever Spirit Day in 2005 and keeps coming back annually as a volunteer. (Agnieszka Ruck photo)

The short drama was produced during the Archdiocese of Vancouver’s first-ever Spirit Day in 2005. Nearly 14 years later, that skit is still fresh in Guevara’s mind.

Spirit Day has since become one of the largest annual gatherings of Catholic youth in Canada. More than 24,000 people – counting Grade 7 students and their adult chaperones – have participated since its inception.

But the skit was such a poignant moment for Guevara that she decided to stay involved in Spirit Day. In 2009, she became a regular volunteer, and every year since has helped run the same production that so inspired her.

“Even though (the programming) is the same more or less every year, I still find myself laughing with the kids and watching them say ‘this is the best thing in the world!’ There’s always something you remember from a big event like Spirit Day.”

Guevara taps into her love for theatre as she works behind the scenes on the production team of Spirit Day, helping set the stage for Mass, praise and worship, skits, and the APeX Ministries juggling/comedy act that have always been part of the event.

Young people having fun at Spirit Day in 2017. (Photo courtesy of RCAV's Youth and Young Adult Ministry )

She says she comes back for the Grade 7s. “It’s exciting to see them so excited about faith!”

Spirit Day was launched at Archbishop Carney Regional Secondary School in 2005 to get Grade 7 students motivated about their faith ahead of receiving the sacrament of confirmation. The first event had about 900 students, including Guevara.

The next year it had already outgrown that location and moved to the 1,500-seat Chandos Pattison Auditorium at Pacific Academy in Surrey. In 2010, it outgrew even that large venue and organizers had to split the massive group in two, inviting the Grade 7s to participate in Spirit Day on one of two days offered (with exactly the same programming) at the same venue.

Since 2011, Spirit Day has been steadily drawing over 2,100 participants annually, including some 150 volunteers. “It’s so nice to have that community,” said Guevara.

This year, it will be held at the Chandos Pattison Auditorium Nov. 3 and 4. More information and registration are available at www.rcav.org/event/spirit-day/2018.

The massive event is run by the archdiocese’s Youth and Young Adult Ministry Office. YYAMO receives $100,000 every year from Project Advance to help fund training, formation, and events like Spirit Day.