Mike Merritt enjoys the music along with other students in grades eight to 12 at St. Cyril Parish Jan. 24. (Sarah Webb)

The music that rocked the social hall of St. Cyril of Jerusalem Parish, Jamison, on Saturday, Jan. 24 was only one component of a day-long Festival of Praise and Worship for young people from St. Cyril and 10 surrounding Bucks County parishes.

Bob Rice, already known to the St. Cyril crowd, conducted the festival that along with music, included talks and discussions about faith.

(See a photo gallery from the event.)

Rice, professor of catechetics at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, is also known for his annual Steubenville Summer Youth Conferences, designed for kids in eighth to 12th grade. That conference draws a crowd of 10,000 each year.


St. Cyril has led pilgrimages to Steubenville since 2010, said Dan Rackers, a member of the parish’s Youth Ministry.

But this time, the tables were turned: Rice and his band made their way to Jamison to celebrate their Catholic faith with teens from St. Cyril and eight neighboring parishes. About 150 kids attended to hear Rice’s talks: “You are Very Good” and “The Greatest Story Ever Told.”

The latter talk seemed the best part of the day for 15-year-old Gennaro Pennone, a 10th grade student at Central Bucks South High School. He was touched, he said, at Rice’s assurance that, in God’s eyes, each person has value.

“It made me feel special that God loves me, and that we all have a special place in this world,” Pennone said.

That’s the message that Youth Ministry volunteers want the young people to come away with, Rackers said.

“We challenge them to accept God and to make him a part of their lives,” Rackers said.

Rice’s teachings hit a spiritual nerve for listeners like Kyle Tokiwa, a 10th grader at La Salle College High School. Tokiwa embraced the reminder that people are made in the image of God, and he believed those words to be an invitation for each person to strive to follow in God’s footsteps.

“(Rice) told us that everything that God made is good and we are better than the animals and the mountains and the sky. That helps us to be like him,” Tokiwa said.

Father Jeff Rott, parochial vicar at St. Jude Parish in Chalfont, attended the festival along with 25 of his young parishioners, and was pleased with the attendance.

“Music and faith create a good environment for our kids. They need to see the joyful part of our faith, and it’s wonderful to see this kind of response,” he said.

Rice calls his “day job” of teaching catechetics a “fancy word for passing on the faith.” A husband and the father of seven children, he also is an author and musician, as well as a public speaker.

He suggested people interested in the Steubenville Conference should visit the university’s website, www.steubenville.org, and to book him for a similar parish event they should visit his website, www.bob-rice.com.