Speaker draws on experience of being bullied
By Anne-Marie Hughes
SASKATOON — “I am a man in need of a stepping stool” is how Greg Thompson describes himself.
Born with a physical disability, Thompson stands less than five feet tall. When speaking to youth, the Catholic speaker from Alabama draws upon his life experiences of being bullied and ridiculed.
Thompson was the keynote speaker at a diocesan Momentum: The Voice youth rally for Grades 6 to 8, held Oct. 13 at the Cathedral of the Holy Family.
“I used to walk into a room and call myself ‘cripple kid’ and people would say, ‘Ah, that’s cripple kid’ and then you get comfortable with cripple kid and you can make fun of him,” said Thompson. His father explained that when he did that, he never gave “cripple kid” a chance to say who he really was.
“So I took that opportunity from that day to say, ‘This is who I really am. This is what I am really about.’ ”
Thompson related how by the end of high school he was student government president. His election speech spoke of the earlier bullying he received: “You guys used to pick on me. You guys used to treat me like crap and I wanna be your president. You know why? Because this is who I really am. I don’t hold any of that against you. You just didn’t know what you were talking about, so I am the smart one, so elect me,” laughed Thompson.
Involved with youth ministry for 25 years in Alabama, Thompson is currently serving as director of liturgy and music for St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Madison, where he lives with his wife Jaren and his two daughters, Michelle and Meagan. He is a year away from ordination to the diaconate.
While keeping his talks relevant to young people, Thompson rooted his presentation in Catholic theology and faith discussion. He said that he found the young Saskatoon group unique in being up to the task.
“I talk to them in a real way and I talk about teachings and I tell them it is time to grow up and start doing stuff,” Thompson said of his wish to push the envelope in terms of teaching theology. “I snuck in some teachings today about virtue. In a nutshell I taught them about 14 paragraphs in the catechism about natural law. We are natural human beings first, with an inclination to goodness.”
He also spoke about the Momentum rally in terms of what it means in relation to the restoration of the order of initiation sacraments. In the Diocese of Saskatoon the sacrament of confirmation is now celebrated in Grade 2, in conjunction with first eucharist, as opposed to celebrating confirmation years after first eucharist in Grades 6 to 8. The change has highlighted the need for ongoing faith formation of youth, and the Momentum rally is envisioned as one way to encourage that process.
“I used to say confirmation was a lot like a Bar Mitzvah and maybe it is, but that is really only because of the age we present it in the States. I feel like I am here for a type of Bar Mitzvah event that calls these kids forth,” he said of the diocesan Momentum youth rally. “Now here is an opportunity to redefine a calling forth of children to their young adulthood, a coming of age experience that is unique here.”
With live music, video screens and podcasts — called “GregCasts” — being recorded and immediately posted to You Tube and Facebook, the diocesan rally in Saskatoon was cutting edge in using multi media and social networking.
The 2012 Momentum rally involved some 150 Grades 6-8 youth from across the Diocese of Saskatoon gathering for the day of praise and worship, games, fellowship and inspirational talks. Families joined the youth for mass with Bishop Donald Bolen and supper, before the day wound up with a Bishop’s Cup basketball tournament between clergy and youth, held at nearby St. Joseph High School.