“Truly a blessing”



by Gretchen Bartz
St. Gregory, Upper St. Clair, Pa.

From June 30 to July 3, I attended the ByzanTeen Youth Rally at Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Md.

The rally is a gathering of ByzanTeens from all over the country every two years for faith, fun, and fellowship. The Eparchy of Passaic organized this year’s rally. I attended with my brother, Matthew, and another fellow ByzanTeen from our parish, Steve Hanna.
After getting our room assignments and unpacking our stuff, we prayed Vespers in the beautiful Chapel of the Immaculate Conception. This was followed by dinner in the Patriot Dining Hall cafeteria and icebreakers in front of the student center. One of the icebreakers was learning different ethnic dances, including an Irish dance and a Belgian dance. These dances were some of my favorite parts of the rally.

Next, Matt Birk, who was on the winning 2012 Super Bowl team, gave the keynote presentation. He spoke about Catholicism in the NFL and then gave everyone a signed copy of his book, “All-Pro Wisdom: The 7 Choices That Lead to Greatness.”

I found it interesting to know that there are many Catholics and other Christians in the NFL. After that, we prayed Compline and then hung out at the student center, playing games and eating snacks at the Bistro.

Friday began with optional Matins (Reconciliation available) and then Divine Liturgy. We were divided into four groups and rotated through four different talks over two days. The talks were Challenges to Faith (e.g., the problem of suffering), The New Normal (life after the pandemic.), Our Faith in the Modern World (technology, morality, the relevance to our faith), and Why are We Byzantine Catholics? (challenging teens to make the faith their own). The talks were interesting, and I appreciated what each speaker had to offer.
Also on Friday there was guided private prayer in the chapel that focused on the Jesus Prayer. Then we went to lunch. The food was always delicious! I enjoyed the French fries, cheeseburgers, ice cream, and salad bar.

After lunch, we could choose one of three different activities: sports, crafts, or choir. I went to crafts and enjoyed spending time with the Sisters of Christ the Bridegroom Monastery while coloring bookmarks. Sports included volleyball, spikeball, basketball and more. Those who chose choir for their activity rehearsed the music for the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy on Saturday.

Friday afternoon we completed a service project in conjunction with Rise Against Hunger and together packaged over 14,250 meals to send overseas to people who need them. I greatly appreciated the chance to help others in need. Friday evening we listened to a talk on Reconciliation, prayed a Panachida service that mentioned our deceased loved ones by name, and had opportunities to receive the Mysteries of Reconciliation and Holy Anointing. We learned a Spanish dance on Friday night at the Bistro. Compline (optional) took place after that.

We prayed Matins on Saturday morning, and then everyone had breakfast and attended the second set of talks. Guided private prayer in the chapel was next, this time on praying with the Scriptures. Then it was time for lunch and our choice of activities again.
Late Saturday afternoon we took buses to the National Shrine of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton for a Hierarchical Divine Liturgy. The shrine was beautiful, and I was pleased to be there and see all of the bishops celebrating Liturgy together. Saturday night ended with a vocations talk and a dance. I had so much fun hanging out and dancing with friends!

Sadly, Sunday morning it was almost time to say goodbye. We ate breakfast and prayed Matins. The rally closed with the announcement of the location of the 2024 rally (San Diego, Calif.) and a blessing. We all packed up and went home.

The rally was truly a blessing, and I had a great time. I met new friends to keep in touch with, loved being able to spend time with sisters from Christ the Bridegroom Monastery in Burton, Ohio, and Mount St. Macrina in Uniontown, Pa. and enjoyed the activities and running around getting bishops, sisters, and friends to sign the green pew books that they gave us.

I am grateful to everyone who made the 2022 rally possible!