By S.L. Hansen
HASTINGS (SNR) – Hastings-area middle school students are invited to a special day-long EDGE retreat focused on the Blessed Mother this June 21.
Bishop James D. Conley will be the guest presenter and main celebrant at Mass during the retreat, which also will include a rosary procession, outdoor water games, Adoration and an opportunity to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Hastings Catholic Youth Ministry launched EDGE for middle school students in August 2012. The idea for a middle school program was formed by local parents who knew their kids in grades 6 though 8 needed something just for them – something that would strengthen their faith during what is often a difficult time of personal development and transition.
“The important thing is that the kids go to Mass, receive the sacraments and learn about their faith,” stated Dr. Paul Rodriguez, one of the parents who got this program started. He and his wife, Andrea, have six children ranging in age from almost-6 to 26.
Working with their pastors, the parents started researching possibilities. Other parents got involved, and the group discovered EDGE, which was developed in Mesa, Ariz., as a counterpart to “Lifeteen,” but for younger students.
EDGE was designed to meet the educational, spiritual, emotional and social needs of young adolescents who are at a pivotal time in their lives. Topics covered in the EDGE curriculum include human dignity, Scripture, Tradition, the sacraments, the Mass, the Incarnation, the Ten Commandments, Lectio Divina and prayer.
“The curriculum is very orthodox and based on scripture and the Catholic catechism,” explained Dr. Rodriguez.
Hastings’ EDGE group meets on the second floor of a former hardware store in downtown Hastings on Sunday evenings. The owner is a member of one of the Catholic parishes served by EDGE, so the rent is reasonable.
“It’s been great, because by having our own space, we can put posters and things up and we don’t have to take them down,” said Dr. Rodriguez.
EDGE draws from all three Hastings school districts and homeschooling families – as well as a few families from nearby communities.
Two priests from the Hastings area are actively involved. Father Patrick Barvick, assistant pastor at St. Michael Parish, is a core team member, and Father Joseph Walsh, pastor of St. Cecilia Parish, serves on the board.
A number of other priests and about 20 adult leaders lead the program. Currently there are as many as 70 middle school kids who participate.
Dr. Rodriguez called EDGE, “wildly popular.”
He continued, “The EDGE organization has a great way of blending great, orthodox teaching about our Catholic faith with games and activities.”
One of the keys to the program’s success, he said, are the 20 or so high school volunteers who help lead small group discussion and occasionally even present the teaching of the day.
With adult guidance, the high school leaders have taken charge of several EDGE evenings. Their presentations have included meaty topics like modesty, profanity, homelessness, and gossip.
That’s in keeping with the EDGE motto, which is a quote from Jeremiah 1:7,8: “Say not ‘I am too young...’ Have no fear before them, because I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord.”
“It’s kind of neat to have high school kids talk about something like profanity, rather than an adult saying, ‘Don’t use bad words.’” Dr. Rodriguez said. “[The middle school students] look up to them a different way than they do adults.”
After a year of helping with EDGE, the high school students wanted their own group, so the EDGE core team started Lifeteen. Now the EDGE group either alternates with the Lifeteen group, or they do combined programs.
“This is not to substitute for religion class or CCD,” Dr. Rodriguez emphasized. “This takes out small parts of religious education and expounds on it.”
This year’s end-of-the-year EDGE retreat will be hosted by St. Cecilia Parish at Centennial Hall in Hastings from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. June 21. Titled, “Clothed in the Sun - Ave Maria Solis Vestem,” the day will focus on Our Lady and her apparitions at Fatima, Guadalupe, and Lourdes.
Bishop Conley will teach a special session called, “Mary in our Spiritual Lives.” He will also celebrate the Mass at 11:30 a.m.
After lunch, the students will have a rosary procession from the downtown EDGE building back to St. Cecilia Church, where they will have Adoration and the opportunity for confession. The day ends with some fun outdoor water games.
All are welcome to attend the public Mass at 11:30 a.m. and Eucharistic Adoration at 2:30 p.m.
Any student finishing grades 5-8 this year can register for the retreat at www.hastings-edge.com. The cost is only $10 and includes lunch. Retreat t-shirts can be pre-ordered for $15 each, and will be available on retreat day.
For more information, visit the Hastings EDGE website at www.hastings-edge.com.