Youth Jam 2000: "Part of something bigger"
Wholesome atmosphere, Catholic surroundings, good entertainment draw youth
By Rebecca Weiss
"In one word, I would describe the atmosphere as electrified. With all the energy of over
1,000 young people in one place, it's hard not to be excited," marvels Ellen Mommaerts
of St. Agnes Parish in Green Bay.
On Oct. 14, the Diocese of Green Bay will welcome young parishioners from throughout
the diocese to the 6th annual Youth Jam at St. Norbert College in De Pere.
"It was created out of the need to show kids that there is a church that goes beyond their
parish. It gives them the opportunity to meet other kids from various churches in the
diocese," says Tony Pichler, diocesan youth ministry consultant. He is responsible for the
Starting at 6 p.m., wholesome and fun entertainment is certain as comedy, music, and
dance are scheduled until 10 p.m. "Don't let them sit still!" is the agenda's maxim.
A veteran of all the Youth Jams, Mommaerts functions as coordinator and DJ. "The best
part is being excited for the kids, to hear them talk at the parish about how neat it is to be
with so many kids from different parishes," explains Mommaerts. Youths in her own
parish look forward to Youth Jam every year. "And the bands are just great."
"Everything is so well organized, and the performers are top notch," raves Pam Marsh of
St. Joseph Parish in Sturgeon Bay, who has helped as a coordinator at all past Youth
Jams. "The staff is so dynamic and good at reaching out to the young with the modern
Pichler defines Youth Jam as "a place for the young to go that's free of influences of life
otherwise included on Saturday evenings - free of alcohol and free of violence."
There is no official theme for the youth rally, but, Pichler says, the underlying message is
"these young people are part of a universal church that is bigger than what they are aware
of and experience at their own parish."
To Mommaerts, the presence of Bishops Robert Banks and Robert Morneau, who talk at
the youth rally, has, for the kids, always been "a crucial element. The bishops being there,
not preaching at them, but just spending time with them, conveys the message that the
church cares about them and that they are not alone. And, also, that the church wants kids
to have fun, positive fun."
Marsh, who has been involved in her parish youth programs for 14 years, agrees. "To see
the bishops talk to the kids and interact with them on such a personal level is awesome.
They come across so friendly and down-to-earth."
Youth Jam in the past was more of a young people's event, with some parishes sending
teen groups in buses. A lot more adults are expected to attend Youth Jam this year,
though, because it will proceed simultaneously with the concluding events of the
Eucharistic Congress. This made the selection of the band a bit tougher than it usually is.
"The band this year, Ceili Rain, is a bit more subdued than previous bands," notes Pichler.
"But they won't be too mellow, either, so the whole family should enjoy them."
Ceili Rain is a seven-member band with a whole array of influences, from Irish folk music
to metal and funk. While the band is Christian and conveys a message of spirituality, its
lyrics do not consist solely of religious matter. "The bands don't necessarily have to
advocate Christianity with their songs, but they have to be of good spiritual nature and
promote decent family values and ethics," explains Pichler.
He knows how tricky it is to find appropriate bands. "There is a fine line between what
kids want to see and what we want to expose them to. Our rule is that it can't be anything
parents would object to." Basically, the concert comes across like any other rock concert,
"minus the alcohol and minus the drugs," adds Pichler.
Keynote speaker is Catholic comedian, storyteller, musician and teacher Doug Brummel,
who performed last year and talked emotionally about the high school shootings in
Littleton, Colo. Pichler remembers the audience being enthralled by his speech. "I have
never seen 1,200 junior high kids quiet down and focus in such a way. They were right
there with him."
"They listened so intensely," agrees Marsh. "You could hear a pin drop."
Brummel usually focuses on the need for strong relationships and reflects on the
importance of taking time to ponder life. But he is also tremendously funny - "kind of a
one-man Saturday Night Live show," Pichler says.
"It's fantastic," enthuses Marsh, "to see kids praising the Lord in song with the musicians,
singing along, clapping, and then in contemplative silence as they listen to motivational
One memorable highlight of the past is Tony Melendez, an armless musician who wowed
the audience by playing Spanish guitar with his feet. "The kids were all under his spell,"
remembers Marsh. "I think it's the personal testimony that both Brummel and Melendez
gave, that meant so much to the kids. It was very inspiring."
Bryan Mitchell from St. Raphael Parish in Oshkosh, who helps manage the Christian
Rock band Revelation that played at the youth event in '98 and '99, remembers the
incredible energy and enthusiasm in the crowed. They built upon it to bring across their
spiritual message. "The primary mission of the bands is to communicate that the church
cares and that the church is home. We expect that the teens take those good feelings with
them and that they reflect on their parishes."
The concluding dance is expected to fortify the feeling of unity and belonging that the
organizers hope to achieve.
"The message perceived is God is Love," says Marsh. "It's overwhelming."
To register, call the Diocesan Education Department at (920)437-7531 or
1-877-500-3580, ext. 3, or e-mail [email protected]. Registration deadline is Oct. 6.
What: Youth Jam 2000
When: 6-10 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 14.
Where: Schuldes Sports Center, St. Norbert College, De Pere.
Who: Primarily for youth, but people of all ages are expected.
Why: Wholesome entertainment and Catholic experience for young people.
Featuring: Talks by Bps. Robert Banks and Robert Morneau; entertainer Doug Brummel;
the band, Ceili Rain; plus pizza.
Registration: Diocesan Education Dept. at (920)437-7531 or 1-877-500-3580, ext. 3; or
e-mail [email protected]. Deadline is Oct. 6.