Guppy Fest still going strong after 24 years

What started as a pre-rally for World Youth Day in 1993 has blossomed into one of the most fun and popular youth events in the Archdiocese of Denver.

Guppy Fest is a day-long youth retreat held by St. Thomas More Parish in Centennial. This year marked the 24th iteration of the event, which has always been a grassroots campaign, said David Tschumper, director of youth ministry for St. Thomas More. The event drew about 175 middle-school aged youth representing 10 parishes from around the diocese, he said.

The very first Guppy Fest was called Fish Dance, and it served as a pre-rally for Saint John Paul II’s historic visit to Denver in 1993 for Worth Youth Day. The event drew 2,000 kids, Tschumper said, and the following year, St. Thomas More sought to continue the tradition at a local level and invite parishes from all over the archdiocese to participate. Guppy Fest is still going strong today.

This year’s Guppy Fest drew 175 middle-schoolers from 10 different parishes for a day of fun and faith formation. All of the activities and talks centered around the Year of Mercy and the story of the Prodigal Son, which were the themes of the event. (Photo provided by Matt Rogers)

This year’s Guppy Fest drew 175 middle-schoolers from 10 different parishes for a day of fun and faith formation. All of the activities and talks centered around the Year of Mercy and the story of the Prodigal Son, which were the themes of the event. (Photo provided by Matt Rogers)

The last two years of Guppy Fest have been geared more towards middle school students, with high school students taking on more of a leadership role in it, Tschumper said.

This year’s theme focused on both the Year of Mercy and the story of the Prodigal Son. Deacon Daniel Ciucci, a seminarian at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary, gave the keynote talk. Youth ministers and musicians from around the archdiocese were also part of Guppy Fest, giving other talks and leading the kids in worship.

The kids enjoyed skits put on by the high school volunteers and participated in breakout sessions during which they discussed the talks. They ended the day with bingo, dancing and a Divine Mercy Chaplet.

COMING UP: Steubenville highlights vibrancy of faith in youth of the nation

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It was quite a sight to behold when 2,000-some young people gathered in the convention center at Crowne Plaza DIA June 24-26 for the Steubenville of the Rockies youth conference.

Read “Totus Tuus: Exploding of Fun

Read “Guppy Fest still going strong after 24 years”

Steubenville is one of the Archdiocese of Denver’s most popular youth events, organized each year by the Office of Evangelization and Family Life Ministries in conjunction with the Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio. The event draws youth and adults representing dioceses and parishes from all around the country, and shows the vibrancy of the Catholic faith among the youth of the nation.

The theme for this year’s conference was “Thirst,” with an emphasis on Romans 5:8, and teens were treated to a variety of talks by several speakers, including Sarah Swafford, Jason Evert and Brian Greenfield. Father Jim Crisman was the main celebrant for the weekend, but Denver Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila said Mass on Saturday morning.

DENVER, CO, June 25, 2016 - Over 3,000 young people from all over the country were in attendance at Steubenville of the Rockies, which was held at the convention center at Crowne Plaza DIA.

Over 3,000 young people from all over the country were in attendance at Steubenville of the Rockies, which was held at the convention center at Crowne Plaza DIA. (Photo by Aaron Lambert)

The separate men’s and women’s talks are often highlights of Steubenville, but this year in particular, Jason Evert gave a talk titled “Love, Same Sex Attraction and Tolerance,” and it was so popular that Evert actually delivered the talk at a later time for those who were turned away, marking the first time such a thing had happened in the history of Steubenville.

The Saturday night Eucharistic holy hour is widely heralded as the most powerful moment of the entire conference, and it was no different this year. Thousands of teens knelt before the Blessed Sacrament as Father Crisman led a Eucharistic Procession around the convention center, and the presence of the Holy Spirit led many to raise their hands in humble worship.

Logan Yerian-Higgins

Logan Yerian-Higgins, an 11th grader from Sacred Heart Parish in Fruita, attended Steubenville for the first time this year, and participated in the LEAD retreat the week prior to prepare spiritually for the conference. Of the retreat, he said it was the “best week of my life.” (Photo by Aaron Lambert)

The week prior to Steubenville, several local youths attended a LEAD retreat, a five-day spiritual preparation for the conference. Logan Yerian-Higgins, an 11th grade parishioner at Sacred Heart Parish in Fruita, said being a part of LEAD helped him to break out of his shell and more fully prepare for Steubenville.

“It was probably the best week of my life,” he said.

This year marked the third time at Steubenville for Marian Bettinger, an 11th grader at Holy Trinity in Westminster. She was also a part of LEAD, and said that doing the retreat in preparation for Steubenville has helped her prayer life immensely.

Marian Bettinger

This year was the third time at Steubenville for Marian Bettinger, an 11th grader from Holy Trinity in Westminster. She said that Steubenville has helped her prayer life immensely, and encourages any teen hesitant to attend Steubenville to “Take that first step. You will gain so much.” (Photo by Aaron Lambert)

“To be able to discover prayer and actually talk with God and have a conversation with God, that is life changing,” Bettinger said. “I’ve had powerful experiences in adoration where I’ve been moved to understand God’s love for me. During this week, I’ve really grown in prayer.”