Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Photo by Kenny Ng
Youth attending the March 2 Middle School Fest of the Archdiocese of Atlanta play gaga ball. The sport, played in an octagonal pit, combines the skills of dodging, running, and jumping, while trying to strike opponents with a soft foam ball below the knees. The festival was held at Notre Dame Academy.


Students ‘thrive’ at annual Middle School Fest

By SAMANTHA SMITH, Staff Writer | Published April 8, 2019

DULUTH—About 750 middle school students sporting green shirts filled Notre Dame Academy for the sixth annual Middle School Catholic Fest on Saturday, March 2.

The day included praise and worship, eucharistic adoration and breakout sessions for boys and girls. Popular features of the annual festival included fresh popcorn, music, snow cones, inflatables and a gaga pit. Students also had the option of going to confession, for which there was a full line throughout the day.

Elaine Phillips, associate director of youth ministry in the Office of Formation and Discipleship, believes the fest is fun for students and that “it’s good for kids to see there are other Catholics out there.”

Phillips has been involved in youth ministry for eight years. Her ministry began by asking the pastor of her church if she could start a program to help prepare her high school aged son for confirmation. Since then, she has served at St. Thomas More Church, Decatur, and Immaculate Heart of Mary Church, Atlanta.

Phillips has “hit the ground running” since being hired for the archdiocesan ministry in February. Her goals include meeting all youth ministers in the archdiocese, connecting them with one another and finding new ways to support their ministries.

“Thrive” was the theme and focus for this year’s middle school fest. Keynote speakers included Jim Weir, a Catholic youth minister for more than 20 years and co-founder of “Alive in You,” a Catholic conference and service camp; and Chenele Shaw, a passionate youth minister from Denver. Onward & Upward, an Atlanta-based worship project of Ashley Dean and James Perkins, provided the music.

Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory celebrated Mass and delivered a special homily for students at the Middle School Catholic Fest, held March 2 at Notre Dame Academy. The theme of the annual event was “Thrive.” Photo by Kenny Ng

Colleen Pittroff, youth ministry coordinator at St. Peter Chanel Church and an organizer of this year’s event, said that popular aspects of the event include speakers, worship music and the closing Mass with Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory.

“Mass with Archbishop Gregory is always amazing as he speaks directly to the middle schoolers,” said Pittroff by email.

While the day is filled with games, fun and fellowship, Phillips believes the fest is also an “opportunity for youth ministers to bring students to an encounter with Christ.”

After the fun day, Pittroff hopes students will be able to “find a way to thrive while living a faith-filled life.”

Youth ministers and middle school families can save the date for next year’s event, scheduled for March 7, 2020.

For more information on Middle School Youth Ministry of the Archdiocese of Atlanta, go to