Teens ‘surrender’ to faith and fun during Frassati Fest Print E-mail
Around the Diocese
Written by Kevin Wondrash   
Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016 -- 12:00 AM
Attendees of this year’s Frassati Fest for teens in the Diocese of Madison participate in a “live” podcast of Freshly Brewed -- the podcast for Madison Catholic youth. To view or purchase photos, go to (Catholic Herald photo/Kevin Wondrash)

WISCONSIN DELLS -- This story could be all about water slides, but it isn’t.

Ask any teen who attends Frassati Fest every year. They will tell you one of the most memorable parts of the weekend is the water park, but there’s more -- so much more.

“You get to have so much fun because you’re with a bunch of people who all love God,” said attendee Anna Thompson, junior at St. Ambrose Academy in Madison and member of St. Christopher Parish in Verona.

“You get to have fun and get closer to God,” said William Donohoe, junior at St. Ambrose and member of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Madison.

Frassati Fest is an annual weekend for teens at Kalahari Resorts and Conventions in Wisconsin Dells that provides hundreds of teens a chance for inspiring catechesis, prayer, good conversation, and an opportunity for teens to dive deeper into the beauty of the Catholic faith with hundreds of their peers.

‘Surrendering’ to the weekend

This year’s theme was “Surrender”.

The teens were asked to “surrender” fear and create authentic friendships with other Catholic teens, and ultimately have the chance to “surrender” to the joy and happiness found in a relationship with Jesus Christ while learning about the beauty of their faith.

The event began the night of February 5 with introductions and a keynote by speaker Matt Faley.

Faley is a speaker and musician known for his energy, authenticity, and gift of storytelling to young people.

“He gave an awesome speech about how God is love and it gave me chills, I was like ‘wow’,” said Caroline Locke, senior at Beloit Memorial High School and member of Our Lady of the Assumption Parish in Beloit.

Locke is one of more than a dozen teens who have gone from participating in Frassati Fest to now being part of the planning team. Among their duties are leading small group discussions and helping teens meet others.

“I’m just excited to personally dive more into my faith . . . [it] gets you super pumped and excited about life,” said Locke.

Oregon High School senior Alex Wirtz is also part of the planning team. The member of Holy Mother of Consolation Parish in Oregon said he wanted to help plan the event to “strengthen my faith and helping others strengthen their faith” and wanted to “be part of making it all happen.”

Freshly Brewed ‘live’

Saturday’s highlights included a “live” podcast of Freshly Brewed -- the official podcast for Madison Catholic youth.

The podcast was done in the format of ESPN’s Around the Horn, with Frassati Fest emcees Scotty Helstad -- senior at Sun Prairie High School and member of Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary Parish in Sun Prairie -- and Sam Schaeffer -- senior at Oregon High School and member of of Holy Mother of Consolation Parish in Oregon -- asking questions to the Freshly Brewed hosts.

The hosts were awarded points for their answers based on the audience reaction -- a green card for a good answer, a yellow card for a not clear answer, or an unfortunate no reaction at all which would reward no points.

The first question posed was “Who is Jesus Christ?”

Bill Van Wagner, seminarian for the Diocese of Madison currently serving a pastoral year at St. Clare of Assisi Parish in Monroe, explained Christ is the “the fulfillment of all our desires . . . who wants to be our best friend, who wants to be the person who loves us most in the world.”

His answer and elaboration of it wouldn’t be enough as he was the first to be eliminated.

Lindsay Becher -- coordinator of youth formation for the Diocese of Madison -- moved onto the next round saying we can know Jesus by what he said in the Bible -- when Peter answered “Who do you say that I am?”

Chris “Topher” Aderhold -- assistant director at Camp Gray in Reedsburg -- was the eventual runner-up and focused on Jesus being a human.

“He was a dude. . . he walked among us . . . hanging out with his buddies, eating dinner, going fishing, busting Peter’s chops . . . he was tempted just like all of us, but never sinned.”

Sara Zeman -- who works with Becher in the diocese -- was the eventual winner and moved onto the next round saying Jesus is “the source of all light . . . he comes to meet us with whatever we’re suffering with . . . he comes to us wherever we are in life.”

Breakout sessions

Another highlight of Saturday was separate breakout sessions for young men and young women.

Van Wagner led the session for the men, or as he called it “dude talk.”

He emphasized the meaning of virtue when it comes to being a Catholic man.

He said the word “virtue” comes from the Latin word vir meaning man.

“Virtue is manliness . . . good habits are a manly thing . . . good actions are a manly thing,” Van Wagner said.

He also reflected on the virtue of humility, or “accepting and acknowledging the truth and embracing the truth.”

He told the men “the truth of God’s love for us means we can become better . . . we don’t have to live the same way that we’re living today,” adding it takes humility to practice being holy and “accepting the truth of what God wants us to be and working toward that.”

Other highlights

Other memories from the weekend included, of course, water park time, along with praise and worship music, an opportunity for Eucharistic Adoration and Confession, and Mass celebrated by Bishop Robert C. Morlino of Madison.

“What is surrender?” Bishop Morlino asked in his homily, playing off the theme of the weekend. “Surrender means somebody else won and the one who surrenders lost. The one who surrenders to the call of Christ loses his own life so that he might save it for all eternity. To surrender is to surrender control. It’s to lose my life as far as this world is concerned.”

The weekend ended with a final time for praise and worship and the showing of a video that was made over the course of the weekend.

For Stephen Duhn, junior at St. Ambrose Academy and member of St. Francis Xavier Parish in Cross Plains, the best part of Frassati Fest is “being around everyone who is so strong in their faith that they can bring you closer to God by showing how close they are to God.”

“It just keeps getting better and better,” said Locke. “It’s just an amazing weekend. You just know you want to be a part of it, you don’t want to miss it.”

For more on Frassati Fest and other activities for youth in the Diocese of Madison, go to

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