‘Don’t be afraid to go up the down escalator’ Bishop Quinn tells 450 young people from across Archdiocese of Detroit
FARMINGTON HILLS — An estimated 450 teenagers from across the Archdiocese of Detroit gathered Feb. 4 at Mercy High School to hear two important messages: First, following Jesus Christ means going against the grain. And second, it’s worth it.
Pat Millea of the Martin Center for Integration, a Cottage Grove, Minn.-based ministry that provides counseling focused on mental health and spiritual needs, was the keynote speaker for the RISE Detroit 2024 gathering of high school youth.
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Millea recognized that not every high schooler at the conference was on fire for the Lord, but that was OK, she said, because they were where they needed to be.
“I’ve been in ministry long enough to know that not everyone at this wonderful event A.) wants to be here, and B.) believes in God,” Millea said. “I’ve given many talks about faith, the Holy Spirit or Theology of the Body, all these wonderful things. Their eyes start to glaze over because I made a lot of assumptions.
“If you are here and genuinely are following Jesus, this is the right place for you to be,” Millea said. “If you are here and you do not know Jesus, that you don’t believe if there is a Jesus, hear me when I say, this is the right place for you to be.”
Millea discussed life with his wife, Kenna, and their seven children, how God called him to married life and being a father, and how life, while messy at times, is always grace-filled.
Millea described an episode during a regular family dinner that in the course of 30 seconds exploded into a chaotic scene: their 1-year-old son hit his head on the table and began to bleed, their 3-year old started throwing up, and the other children were crying because of all the commotion.
“We had this perfect family, a Norman Rockwell painting-like scene that spiraled into absolute chaos in 30 seconds,” Millea said. “Kenna and I sat at the table after the kids were in bed, and all was said and done. And we laughed for 30 minutes straight, thinking about what the Lord has called us to in this life.
“We have the illusion that following Jesus will be boring, that it will be disappointing and will rob you of the things that we want in life,” Millea said. “We think of all the things that we have to ‘give up,’ to follow Jesus. Friends, I’m here to tell you there is no adventure like the adventure Christ has for your life.”
Josie Schneider, a ninth-grader at Regina Caeli Academy in Sterling Heights, found Millea’s talk particularly relatable, especially about the ups and downs that come with being a teenager who follows Christ.
“I say he really communicated on our level; he really understood us and helped us to grow in a relationship with Christ,” Schneider told Detroit Catholic.
Schneider, a member of St. Mary Parish in Port Huron, attended RISE last year with her youth group and wanted to return because of how powerful the experience was.
“There isn’t a fire for the Lord anywhere else like at a retreat or a conference,” Schneider said. “With the Mass, the talks, confession, and adoration, there is a real connection here. At conferences like this, I’m looking for fellowship, and spending time with like-minded youth. It helps to grow in relationship with Christ when you are with your friends.”
Millea spoke with Detroit Catholic after his morning keynote about what he hoped youths took away from the day, particularly, taking time to hear the Lord’s voice.
“There are so many voices vying for the attention of young people today, voices that can seem very convincing on the face, but don’t offer anything,” Millea said. “Voices in the media, on social media, voices in peer groups, and things like that. Some of those voices aren’t bad, they just aren’t the voices of truth Jesus uses to call. So I think hearing His voice clearly in the Church, in the sacraments, in the community, and following where he leads, that’s a crucial message for everybody.”
Millea said a one-day conference such as RISE can do wonders for a teenager’s faith because it is a break from the routine and a chance to re-examine their relationship with God from a different angle.
“I’ve seen how youth might show up to a one-day event, arms crossed, eyes down, just furious to be there,” Millea said. “But at the end of the event, maybe it’s adoration, maybe it’s a confession, maybe it’s a Mass, but just for the first time in their lives, they are being opened up to the mercy of God and are different from that day forward.”
Abby Katz of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Emmett, another returning RISE retreatant, said she felt profound spiritual growth the first time she went to the event.
“I really felt it when he (Millea) was mentioning pain and stuff and how you can lay it all down to God, and how God is really there to help you and relieve that pain you’re in,” said Katz, a sophomore at Croswell-Lexington High School. “Going to this conference really inspired me to follow my faith and grow in an environment like this. I feel I won my faith more because of events like this.”
The conference began with Mass celebrated by Bishop John M. Quinn, former bishop of Winona-Rochester, Minn. (2009-22), and a former Detroit auxiliary bishop (2003-08).
Bishop Quinn recalled once taking his 6-year-old grand-nephew to the shopping mall and found him trying to climb up the down escalator, going against the flow of the crowd.
“Whenever I call him on the phone, I always ask him, ‘Are you still going up the down escalator?’” Bishop Quinn said. “He always says to me, ‘I know what you are asking. You are not asking if I’m playing on the escalators. But am I willing to go against the crowd? Am I willing to go against what everyone else is doing?’”
Bishop Quinn said following Jesus has always been about going against the crowd, regardless of a person’s age, but particularly for young people who have so many commitments and distractions.
“The truth is all of us follow Jesus better when we have friends who help us find him,” Bishop Quinn said. “Friends who already believe their role is to unleash the Gospel. Friends who believe that Jesus is real, that he is not an idea, that he is not just a prophet, that he is not just a liberator. But he is both God and man. He is God and fully human, and he might preach that Gospel, but also free us from sin and darkness and heal us.”
Bishop Quinn said teenagers today have an extraordinary power in the Church, and challenged them to get involved in their parishes.
“When you’re present at your parish, that matters,” Bishop Quinn said. “Everyone notices you, because the commitments you make, not only with studies, but with athletics, arts and music. So when you make the time to come to Mass, you are going up the down escalator.”