Challenging message in store for this year’s Diocesan Youth Rally

The theme will be “Called for Greatness: Made for More!”


NOTE: The deadline for registering for this event is Wednesday, Sept. 5. CLICK HERE to register.

Cooper Ray’s 3-year-old son didn’t want to leave his backyard wading pool, even if it meant going to a kiddy water complex with slides and water cannons.

How could he possibly know what he was missing?

“What the world offers us is the comfort of the baby pool, but we’re made for something bigger, something greater,” said Mr. Ray, who will be the keynote presenter at Jefferson City diocese’s 2018 High School Youth Rally. “We have to let go and trust the people who are trying to help us get there.”

The rally will be held from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 8, at Helias Catholic High School, 1305 Swifts Highway in Jefferson City.

It is open to all high-school-age youth in the diocese.

It will include nationally recognized speakers and performers, fun activities, prayer and worship.

The theme will be “Called for Greatness: Made for More!”

Perennially popular Catholic music and comedy duo Shannon Cerneka and Orin Johnson, known as Oddwalk Ministries (, will be the emcees.

Lunch will be served.


Road less traveled

Cooper Ray ( is quickly becoming one of the most popular and sought after speakers, worship leaders and retreat facilitators.

“Sometimes life is hard, sometimes being a Catholic is hard, especially in this day and age,” he said. “But it’s what God made us for.”

Through music, story, humor and audience participation, Mr. Ray leads groups of all ages to a greater awareness of who they are as Catholic Christians and how to recognize God’s power in their lives.

He noted that most movies, sit-coms and advertising equate “the good life” with comfort, ease and getting by with as little effort as possible.

“That’s not what we’re made for!” he insisted. “We’re made for the struggle, for the battle, for the rugged path. Those struggles, those trials are what get us to where God wants us to be.”

Mr. Ray grew up in a Catholic family in Lexington, Kentucky, went to Catholic school and attended Mass every day until his family moved to Texas when he was in eighth grade.

At the rally, he’ll talk about what getting out of his comfort zone meant for him and about a deep conversion experience he had as an altar server at Mass.

He’ll share how the summer job he took at a Catholic summer camp brought him into contact with Catholics who challenged him to keep going deeper in his relationship with God.

Studying and getting involved in campus ministry at the University of Mississippi, where there weren’t many Catholics, forced him to stop and wrestle with, “Why am I Catholic? Why do I stay Catholic?”

He’ll talk about some of the people, including his wife, Laura, who would not let him coast toward a watered-down faith.

“I was on a path of striving for holiness, and I didn’t think I had much room for growth,” he said. “Then I met this woman who kicked my behind into high gear in a major way.”

He and Mrs. Ray now live in Texas with their three young sons.


No excuses

Mr. Ray said the goal is for everyone who attends the youth rally to go home energized, curious and more receptive to knowing Who Jesus is and everything that He wants for them.

People who go will spend time with other Catholic teens and adults who are united in seeking a greater understanding of God’s place in their life and the depths of His love.

Especially for young people in smaller parishes, it will be a chance to see how much larger the Church is than they may be accustomed to seeing closer to home.

Mr. Ray hopes parents will put forth the extra effort to help their teens attend the rally, even if it means a long commute.

“Parents do a lot of things for their kids to help them succeed in life,” he said. “This is an opportunity to give them a dose of good spiritual formation to help them succeed for all eternity.”

He knows people can find every excuse under the sun to miss an event such as this.

“It can be too easy to excuse ourselves out of doing something great or allow the distractions to keep us from going where God is leading us,” he said.

“Try to push those distractions aside and say, ‘Hey, this is one day out of my life. And it’s one day that could change my life forever,’” he suggested.