About 1,200 teens from across the Archdiocese of Detroit gathered for prayer, fellowship and spiritual instruction. (Brandy Baker / The Detroit News)
Detroit— “Ignite the Light” was the catchy theme of Rainbow XXXII, the Catholic Youth Organization conference at the Detroit Marriott Hotel in the Renaissance Center.
To the roughly 1,200 teens from across the Archdiocese of Detroit who gathered Saturday and Sunday for prayer, fellowship and spiritual guidance, it also doubled as a call to action: remaining strong in their faith despite worldly temptations and spreading the gospel to others.
“You are literally filled with the Holy Spirit coming out of it,” said Brandon Ebert, 17, a senior at Divine Child High School in Dearborn and CYO Youth Council chairman.
Teens representing more than 70 parishes in the region fervently reached for that goal throughout Rainbow, an annual assembly believed to be the archdiocese’s largest youth event.
From sharing a Mass to singing worship songs and attending workshops on topics such as bullying, social justice and sexuality, the young attendees aimed to prepare for spiritual struggles in their schools, homes and communities.
“It gives them something true and honest to hold on to,” said Margie Howell, director of youth leadership development for the Catholic Youth Organization. “There are so many different types of kids here, and yet they’re all the same.”
The event concluded Sunday with a candid session led by keynote motivational speakers Jackie Francois and Cooper Ray, who are also Christian musicians. On a stage backed with blue and green lights, Francois urged those in the crowd to view God in every opportunity and consider whether their companions are the best influences.
“Your friends are going to be the best indicator of whether you stay on fire,” she said.
Such messages encouraged Courtney Kelley, a ninth-grader active with St. Elizabeth in Detroit. She called the experience “a big eye-opener.”
“It will help me be a better person and a better leader,” she said.
At the end, the students departed with gleaming pins that featured a colorful symbol of Christianity, which served as a pledge to continue their efforts outside.
Streaming out of the Renaissance Ballroom with embraces and smiles, the youths — some repeat Rainbow participants — were eager to follow through.
“The growth and how much I’ve grown closer to God has been astronomical,” said Matt Ivan, 17, of Sterling Heights, who attends St. Lawrence in Utica.