November 13, 2015

Rejoice in the Lord

Powerful moment awaits young Catholics coming to Indianapolis

Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin

Next week, our archdiocese has the great privilege of hosting the National Catholic Youth Conference (NCYC), which is being held at the Indiana Convention Center and Lucas Oil Stadium on Nov. 19–21. On behalf of all the people of central and southern Indiana, and of our entire state, let’s offer a warm Hoosier welcome to the 23,000 people (including high school students, youth ministers, chaperones, bishops, priests and others) who are expected to attend this event!

In my column last week, I offered some reflections on the importance of youth ministry, which begins in the family and extends outward to parishes, schools and archdiocesan agencies. Next week, we will witness a national extension of this outreach to the young Church. Every two years, talented and faith-filled high school students from all regions of the country gather together to celebrate their commitment to Christ.

This national event anticipates the much larger experience of World Youth Day, which gathers hundreds of thousands of young people from all over the globe in order to prepare them to become missionary disciples (a favorite term of Pope Francis) who encounter Christ, and then generously share him with others.

When St. John Paul II reflected on the origins of World Youth Day, he said, “I imagined a powerful moment in which the young people of the world could meet Christ, who is eternally young, and could learn from him how to be bearers of the Gospel to other young people.”

NCYC has a similar mission. It is an opportunity for young people to experience the Church beyond the limits of their families, their parishes and their dioceses. NCYC always attracts some of our Church’s best known speakers and musicians. It is a grand celebration, as well as a time for quiet prayer, personal reflection and sharing of faith.

Of course, the holy Eucharist is the highlight of each day, supported by opportunities for the sacrament of reconciliation and for eucharistic adoration and many other opportunities for prayer and devotion. This year’s theme for the conference is “Here I Am Lord” (“Aquí Estoy Señor”).

Marian University in Indianapolis, whose mission is to be a great Catholic university dedicated to excellent teaching and learning in the Franciscan and liberal arts tradition, is taking a major leadership role as a Diamond Level sponsor of the NCYC conference. Marian’s involvement is especially welcome because of the university’s commitment to educating leaders for Church ministry.

In collaboration with the archdiocese, Marian University provides academic formation (philosophy and theology) for students who attend Bishop Simon Bruté College Seminary. Marian is also nationally recognized for its San Damiano Scholars program, which prepares students who are interested in lay ministry for leadership roles in parishes, schools and Church-related organizations. We are grateful to Marian University for all its work with the young Church, and especially this week for its sponsorship of NCYC.

Last week, I posed the question, “What is the greatest challenge young people face today?” I responded by calling attention to our contemporary culture, the world, and what it offers all of us, but especially the young.

In contrast to what the world offers, I wrote, “What Christ has to offer is freedom. He doesn’t say to us that our earthly possessions, physical appearance or circle of friends matter. Instead, Christ says that we matter. The Gospel constantly reminds us that our earthly possessions don’t make us who we are. God created us perfectly; we are made in God’s own image. But we allow ourselves to be consumed by our ‘stuff,’ and this prevents us from being who we are perfectly created to be. Only by developing a personal relationship with Christ, and living as he lived over the course of a whole lifetime, can we be really free to reach our full potential as human persons.”

The National Catholic Youth Conference provides members of the young Church with opportunities for the kind of “powerful moment” that St. John Paul II hoped would result from the prayerful gathering of thousands of young people from all over the world. We hope that the powerful moments of grace that NCYC offers young people will be a source of profound hope and encouragement for all who are called to minister to children, youth and young adults. To witness the enthusiasm and genuine piety of youth leaders is a real joy. It’s also a reminder that young people minister to us, their elders, whenever they come together in Christ’s name.

Let’s pray that the 2015 National Catholic Youth Conference will be a powerful moment of grace for all who attend the conference and for the whole Church! †

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