By SHEILA OJENDYK
GREENVILLE — The stage at the Msgr. Charles J. Baum Parish Recreation Center was decorated with seven gift-wrapped bags representing the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: courage, understanding, wonder and awe, knowledge, right judgment, reverence and wisdom.
The occasion was the First Annual Upstate Youth Day on May 23, and teens flocked to St. Mary’s from all over the Piedmont Deanery for a day of fun and spiritual development.
Jimmy Diaz, a teacher of the high school youth group at St. Mary’s, organized the event and was assisted by teen representatives from the state youth conference. Diaz said the purpose of the Upstate Youth Day was to “pull the deanery together, to recognize the confirmed eighth-graders and pull them into youth groups. … and to recognize the seniors who are leaving us.” He referred to Upstate Youth Day as a “mini Camp Thunderbird.”
The formal program began with a scavenger hunt and included skits and talks targeted to teens. One skit was particularly memorable: a baseball game between God’s team and Satan’s team. The score was 0 to 0, and it was the bottom of the ninth inning with two outs. Satan was pitching. Love came to bat and hit a single. Faith came to bat and hit another single. Wisdom came to bat next and recognized that Satan was throwing foul balls. Wisdom did not strike at any of the errant pitches and walked to first base. The bases were loaded. Then, Grace came to bat and hit a grand slam. The moral to the story? “Love, faith and wisdom will get you on base, but only grace can get you home.”
Franciscan Father Paul Williams, pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Church in Greenville, was the keynote speaker. Father Williams said today’s parents are not doing their job completely. They are providing well for their children’s physical needs, but they need to tell their children their stories. He urged the teens to pray from the heart and tell God all of their concerns. He assured them, “You will discover you are not alone … be prepared … you will start to hear God’s voice, and it won’t be your imagination.” He went on to relate two memorable stories from his own life.
The pastor said he was a college student taking a class in logic. He found the class difficult and got a D on his midterm. He hired a tutor but continued to find the class difficult. The night before his final exam he prayed that he would pass. God spoke to him in a silent voice and assured that everything would be all right. He slept soundly that night. The next morning, he began to doubt that God had really spoken to him. He went to his logic class, put his hand on the doorknob to open the door, got cold feet and walked away. He went to the library to study for his other finals and ran into his logic professor. The professor asked why he wasn’t in class taking the final. He replied that it was useless since he was going to fail the class anyway. A couple of days later, one of his classmates asked him if he’d heard the good news. The professor apologized for making the class so hard that people were failing and passed everybody who took the final!
The second story took place when Father Williams was 10 years old. There was a mean dog, usually tied up, that he had to pass frequently on his daily travels. One day the dog was not tied up and ran to attack him. He closed his eyes and made the sign of the cross. Just as the dog was ready to leap on him, it turned and ran away with its tail between its legs.
Don Ballish, a specialized building contractor from Columbia, spoke to teens about Home Works. He compared Home Works to Habitat to Humanity except Home Works doesn’t build homes; Home Works brings in teen volunteers to do repairs and refurbishments for the poor, the elderly and the handicapped under close adult supervision. Ballish talked about the 10 homes he previewed for the upcoming project in Greenville on July 11 to 18 and asked for volunteers.
Scarecrow and Tinmen, a popular, nationally known Christian rock group, was scheduled to perform but ran into car problems en route. They arrived too late to set up the stage for a musical performance but gave away CDs and stayed to talk with the teens personally. The musicians were disappointed that they could not perform and promised to come back and play at no charge. They hope to return later this summer.