The Official Newspaper of the Diocese of Little Rock

Tornadoes don’t stop youth praising Jesus

‘More reason to pray’ at diocese’s statewide convention for teens March 31-April 2

Published: April 13, 2023   
Courtesy Office of Youth Ministry
Deacon Danny Hartnedy of Christ the King Church in Little Rock leads adoration April 1 during the state Catholic youth convention in Little Rock.

The aftermath of the March 31 tornado in west Little Rock meant youth from Christ the King Church were delayed a day in arriving at Arkansas' Catholic Youth Convention in downtown Little Rock. 

But Hannah Rockers and Rachel Blair said it was well worth the delay.

“You always get to see people so on fire for their faith,” Blair, 16, said. “It is just amazing to see their faith in the Catholic Church, at our age especially.”

The 71st annual state convention welcomed 360 teens. Liz Tingquist, director of the Catholic Youth Ministry Office, said a couple of groups arrived late Friday night because of freeway closures following the tornadoes across the state, while four groups arrived Saturday morning. No group was forced to cancel, she added. 

Mary Gallimore, a prayer team member who attended from Hot Springs, said, “It is an amazing testimony that our God is unstoppable and he is well able to prepare a way, make a way.”

Rockers and Blair agreed. Rockers, 16, a sophomore at Mount St. Mary Academy in Little Rock, summed up their late arrival as part of the Lord’s plan, although both teens felt convention-goers kept everyone affected by the tornadoes in their prayers.

“I think it gives us more reason to pray this weekend, just for all the people affected by the tornados,” said Blair, a 10th-grade homeschooler. “I know a lot of people who know someone who had their houses destroyed. A lot of people came here with stress from that. It is time to pray and relax from that.”

Over the three-day “Awaken” convention, youth heard from keynote speakers Katie Prejean McGrady and Rich Curran. McGrady is an award-winning author, international speaker, podcaster and daily radio show host. Curran is a trainer, author and “itinerant preacher.’ Weekend activities also included scriptural Stations of the Cross, a seminarian presentation, guided adoration, praise and worship, and confessions. A dinner and games were held Saturday night, while Sunday ended with the installation of the 2023-2024 Youth Advisory Council.

Adoration is one of the activities Rockers and Blair most look forward to. This was their second state convention. 

Blair said, “There is usually something weighing on my heart during these conventions, or so it always seems to work that way, where I want to get it off my chest.”

Members of the Diocese of Little Rock's prayer team, including Gallimore, were on hand to pray with the teens if and when the teens asked. Gallimore said the team is grateful to attend because it is beautiful to see what the Lord is doing with our young people. It gave her hope.

"We come to pray with the youth for whatever their needs are," Gallimore said of their work. "Sometimes, they will come asking for a specific thing, maybe for healing. It could be physical healing or healing of relationships or family issues. Sometimes, they are struggling with a particular sin. Sometimes, the Lord lays something on their heart that he wants to address and they may go to confess, they go to adore and they want to go to prayer ministry so they can continue to heal and move on with their lives. We are just kind of the bridge between the Lord and his people that the Holy Spirit flows through."

Gallimore estimated this is the third year for the prayer team to attend the convention. She said they attend because youth are the future of the Church.

"The world is so hungry for God whether they know it or not," she added. "It is such a difficult environment that our young people are in today. This just provides an opportunity for them to maybe have a closer encounter with the Lord that they may not experience otherwise. it gives them an opportunity to experience God in a more intimate and personal way, hopefully, and to walk away changed.”

For Rockers, each convention she attends has helped her faith life. 

“It helps me later on to reach out to others who didn’t attend,” she said, adding she also made new friends of those who did.

Blair agreed. 

“It is great to see teens, people your age, your peers struggling with things that you are too and then opening up about it,” she added. “It makes you more comfortable too. I think hope spreads.”

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