Diocese joins others in celebrating faith at Lifest

OSHKOSH — The Diocese of Green Bay had more to celebrate than its 150-year anniversary during Lifest; it also celebrated the unity of Christians joining together in worship.

More than 10,000 people attended Lifest, a Christian music festival, from July 12-15 in Oshkosh. The Diocese of Green Bay had a campsite at Shady Acres campground and a booth in the main exhibit hall.

Bishop David Ricken and Seth Alfaro old a sheet cake that commemorated the Diocese of Green Bay’s 150th anniversary. Lifest guests were treated to cake on July 14. (Sam Lucero | The Compass)

“We’re celebrating only 20 years, but the diocese has a 150th anniversary,” said Life Promotions founder, Bob Lenz. “We are humbled and honored we can be part of this.”

Referring to Scripture in John 17, when Jesus prays for the unity of all believers, Lenz said he is thankful for the unity of Christians at Lifest.

“There is only one God,” said Lenz, “and his name is Jesus.”

“It’s beautiful to be with so many other followers of Jesus Christ,” said Bishop David Ricken. He said it was a joy for the diocese to be present at Lifest with others who share the same love of Christ.

Parish religious education and Catholic school students received free day tickets to the family-friendly festival courtesy of Life Promotions. About 1,100 Catholic youth took advantage of the offer, according to Lifest.

Twenty-five volunteers at the booth in the main exhibit hall sold diocesan T-shirts and gave out rosaries, stickers and temporary tattoos throughout the four-day festival. Visitors could also make a bracelet with beads symbolizing different aspects of the Catholic faith, write down a prayer intention and snap a picture next to a life-sized cardboard cutout of Pope Francis.

The diocese’s campsite held daily praying of the rosary, confession and Mass followed by a free hot dog cookout. Events at the campsite were sponsored by a different ministry group each day.

On Thursday, eight volunteers from the Jornadas group, a Hispanic youth ministry, sponsored events. One activity was a game involving inflatable suits and a beach ball called “Bump & Run,” which “was a huge hit,” said Jimmy Pineda, a volunteer from the Jornadas group.

“Building bridges between communities is our goal and sharing God on our journey will make this world a better place,” said Pineda. It was the ministry’s first year at Lifest and the volunteers were not sure what to expect, but the group had a blast, said Pineda.

St. Raphael the Archangel Parish’s youth ministry, Aftershock, sponsored Friday’s activities. They brought a “Food, Fun and Faith” wheel, which is the motto of the youth ministry. Participants spun the wheel and, based on the results, were given a snack, played one of a dozen “Minute to Win It” games or answered a question about their faith.

“(Lifest is) a chance to get outside the church boundaries and meet people where they’re at,” said the St. Raphael Parish youth minister, Tommy Nelson. He said that it was also a chance for St. Raphael to get plugged into the community.

Camp Tekakwitha, a week-long Catholic summer camp near Shawano, sponsored events on Saturday and invited children to play “Gaga Ball” with Bishop Ricken. Despite the heat, dozens of children played the camp favorite throughout the day.

The seven camp counselors were hoping to show kids and parents a taste of the camp, which focuses on missionary work for kids, said Camp Tekakwitha counselor, Jack Lawlis. He said that Lifest is a fun place that shows unity between different Christian denominations.

“It’s a great community of Christians,” said Lawlis. “You can see God’s work through the lens of a festival.”

Other Saturday events included Lectio Divina, in which Bishop Ricken led more than 40 participants to read, meditate, pray and contemplate on Sunday’s Gospel reading.

That afternoon, the diocese celebrated its 150-year anniversary with a cake before Seth Alfaro spoke at the campsite.

Alfaro shared his story of conversion on Saturday to an audience of more than 200. He presented his story with a video featuring news highlights and music to tell the story of his near-fatal accident and recovery. He spoke about how his story was shared on Facebook, which encouraged people to pray for him. Each time a prayer request was shared, he seemed to have a milestone in his recovery.

He also streamed the music video for his single, “Check in the Bank.” The first half of the song was written and recorded before the accident, showing Alfaro at a liquor store and displaying the party life he describes living before the accident. The second half was written and recorded after the accident. Alfaro raps the “lessons got through.” In the video, he runs into his father’s embrace, symbolizing his return to the Father.

“We turn away from (God), but he’s always chasing after us,” said Alfaro.

Bishop Ricken celebrated Mass on Sunday morning. He later attended an Ecumenical Worship Service to show Christian unity.

MORE PHOTOS: To view more photos from Lifest, visit our Flickr page.