The Official Newspaper of the Diocese of Little Rock

Stories touch teens learning to have faith-filled life

Convention included outing to Arkansas Travelers game and Christian music concert

Published: May 21, 2017         
Aprille Hanson
Catholic singer and speaker Jackie Francois Angel energizes the room of teenagers attending the Catholic Youth Convention May 12 at the DoubleTree Hotel and Robinson Convention Center in Little Rock before speaking.

When Jackie Francois Angel was growing up in Orange County, Calif., the beautiful depictions of Catholic saints didn’t exactly fit her lifestyle. She was loud and loved goofy accents and animal sounds. Being quiet and hands pointed upward in prayer — “Because if you don’t fold your hands like this the prayers don’t work” she joked — was just not her.

“I had this idea if you were a saint or like super Catholic on fire for your faith, then you’re like a really boring person OK and that like you’re even Gregorian chanting your order at the coffee shop,” Angel said, before launching into her best chant of ordering a Carmel Macchiato.

But God doesn’t have a type of saint. In her senior year of high school, she had stellar grades, fun extracurricular activities, a boyfriend, but something was “missing.”

“I wasn’t alive; I was pretty dead,” said Angel to about 350 high school students attending the annual State Catholic Youth Convention in Little Rock May 12-14. “I was not living for God; in fact I was living for myself.”

Today, Angel, a married Catholic singer/songwriter, worship leader and speaker, is still a self-professed goofball, getting all the teenagers to let loose with crazy dance moves before even starting her speech. Her conversion story of realizing she was only acting “50 percent” Catholic at a retreat when she was 18 made her connect with the youth in a fun way despite hitting on serious topics like purity in relationships, being persecuted for the faith and defending it and dedicating oneself fully to God. 

“It even says in the Book of Revelation in Chapter 3 it says God would rather you be hot or cold. If you are lukewarm, he will spit you out. I remember reading that and being like whoa,” she said. “You know what that means? God would rather you be a passionate sinner than a lukewarm Catholic. You know why, it’s the passionate sinners who become passionate saints.”

Angel gave three different talks during the Catholic Youth Convention, all focusing on the theme “Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life.” The weekend, which had youth attend from 26 different parishes, included Mass, faith-based workshops, an Arkansas Travelers baseball game and a free concert following the game from popular Catholic singer Matt Maher. Religious sisters, seminarians and Father Taryn Whittington, prefect of the House of Formation, also attended.

Liz Tingquist, director of the diocese’s Catholic Youth Ministry Office, said Angel is “a fresh face in youth ministry. She’s young, real charismatic, a really talented singer and a great motivating speaker.”

On May 12, Angel made the Catholic youth not only burst out in laughter with stories like the best Catholic pick-up lines — “Girl, if I had a rosary bead for every time I thought of you I’d have a glorious mystery” — but also to be still in prayerful meditation as she led the young people in song.

At 18, she said she began attending daily Mass, opening the Bible and going to confession regularly.

“How many of y’all get angry sometimes? Like you’ve got anger, OK, you get mad at people ‘I want to punch them in the face.’ I don’t know about you but seriously, I know when someone cuts me off in traffic, I’ve had to learn the first finger to give them is this,” she said, giving the thumbs up.

Elizabeth Reed, 15, of Blessed Sacrament Church in Jonesboro, called Angel’s speech “inspiring” and said she plans to “get more involved with (church) activities.”

Conner Kordsmeier, 17, a member of Our Lady of Fatima Church in Benton, said he was most moved by “the way she focused on dating and relationships, to be pure and not lustful” and hopes to “just be more pure and treat everyone with respect and not judge others.”

Just as Angel explained that Catholic teenagers should be different, Jessica Romero, 16, of St. Anne Church in North Little Rock, said she hopes people see that in her.

“Her boldness for her religion inspired me to share more, be more open for people to know who I am.”

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