"It's a way to connect and meet people where they're at." - Father Ricardo Pineda
When the students of Knoxville Catholic High School gathered in the auditorium for a spirit week rally, they probably expected to see their mascot running around with the football team and the cheerleaders to lead the crowd in a rousing chant: a standard pre-homecoming assembly. These expectations, however, were quickly abandoned and jaws were dropped as students witnessed a trio of Catholic priests locked in a heated dance-off.
Knox News reports that the theme of this year’s spirit week was “When Cultures and Faith Embrace,” a motif brought to life through the talents of three priests who hail from California: Fr. Joseph Aytona, Fr. Jewel Aytona, and Fr. Ricardo Pineda. Fr. Pineda opened the event up with a demonstration of beatboxing, which led to a stupendous display of the modern hip-hop dance style that took the world by storm in the latter quarter of the 20th century.
The three shepherds exhibited exceptional physical strength and endurance as they spun around on the ground, holding themselves up with just their arms while their legs twisted into impressive shapes. They played standing leap-frog, jumping over each other’s heads with the greatest of ease, and then they invited students to come down and show off their own talents.
Margie Hagen of Knox News notes that Fathers Joseph and Jewl Aytona are brothers who grew up in Los Angeles. In their youth, they were drawn to breakdancing, performing in dance teams. After they both entered the priesthood, they found a way to translate their performance art into a ministry.
In an interview with WBIR, Father Pineda spoke about this unconventional ministry and the reactions from the students:
“Good feedback, by the grace of God and thanks be to God, just to utilize whatever God has given us for his greater glory and honor. It’s a way to connect and to meet people where they’re at. So never to lower the standards of the Gospel message, but to find ways to connect with them and then elevate them and raise them up to what the standard is.”