November 11, 2011

Participant and organizers say National Catholic Youth Conference will be a ‘life-changing event’

By Mary Ann Garber and John Shaughnessy

National Catholic Youth Conference 2011 logoFor 18-year-old Brian Ross, his excitement about the upcoming National Catholic Youth Conference in Indianapolis stems from two amazing moments at the last gathering of Catholic high school students from across the country.

“The first time I walked into the conference [at Kansas City in 2009], they were playing the theme song ‘Christ Reigns,’ and everyone was having a blast,” recalled Ross, a senior at Bishop Chatard High School and member of St. Simon the Apostle Parish, both in Indianapolis. “They were singing, dancing, clapping, laughing, and the conference hadn’t even started yet.

“The other moment was on the second day when I randomly decided I wanted to give my confession to a priest. I don’t know why, but I pulled a priest off the street, and I asked him if I could give him a confession. He said yes. It was right by a street lamp, and I gave a five-minute confession while a bunch of teenagers were walking around. After that, I felt a big load had been lifted off my shoulders.”

During the conference, he also felt the thrill of being Catholic.

“It was really neat to see all the people who were there because they cared about their Catholic faith,” said Ross, a member of the Archdiocesan Youth Council. “It wasn’t like they had to be in a religion class. They wanted to be there. I’m just looking forward to another great experience to grow even closer to my faith. I’m looking forward to being with all the people who are excited about being Catholic.”

That opportunity will happen on Nov. 17-19 when 23,000 high school students come together for the National Catholic Youth Conference at the Indiana Convention Center.

At the same time, the National Catholic Collegiate Conference will be held in Indianapolis for hundreds of young adults aged 18 to 23.

“We’re really excited about this,” said Bob McCarty, executive director of the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry, during a press conference on Oct. 19 at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis to promote the events. “There will be wonderful opportunities during the conference for our young people to develop a much deeper relationship with Jesus. You will see opportunities that young people have to learn skills for discipleship, to literally begin to live this out in the broader arena.”

McCarty shared the examples of two youths who were motivated by the last conference to find ways to reach out to other people. One spent a summer working with the poor in Haiti. The other saw an opportunity to make a difference in her school cafeteria by sitting and talking with students who were eating alone.

The conference, which has the theme “Called to Glory,” should also have another major impact.

“That image of the Church—that this is a Church that loves and values young people—that image will stay with them,” McCarty predicted. “Our young people need to be part of something bigger, and NCYC is as big as it gets in the Catholic Church for our young people in the United States.”

The youth of the Church are considered so important that at least 25 bishops from dioceses in the United States will attend the conference, including Bishop Christopher J. Coyne, apostolic administrator for the archdiocese.

“We’re all coming from a very long meeting in Washington that we have every year around this time,” Bishop Coyne said at the Oct. 19 press conference. “Instead of going home, they’re coming here to take care of business, and that business is being with the young people, and that’s just great to see. It’s an opportunity for them to engage the young people, to dialogue with them, and talk to them and share the sacraments.”

Bishop Coyne said he believes the youth will also be able to teach the bishops some new ways of sharing the faith.

“One of the most exciting things for us is to learn how to use the new social media for more ways of spreading the Good News, whether it be through Facebook or Twitter or any of the other tech things that are out there for us to really begin to dialogue with young people,” Bishop Coyne said.

The opportunity for service and sacrifice will be another defining part of the conference.

“We’ll be asking the kids to give up what they normally would give for a coffee or soft drink to an organization that helps with water purification in Haiti,” said Kay Scoville, archdiocesan director of youth ministry and one of the leaders of the NCYC in Indianapolis.

“We also hope to impact the local agencies as well. We’ll be collecting food for St. Vincent de Paul Society and books for Literacy for All. The kids will have an opportunity to make Christmas cards for holiday cheer. For the program Foster the Love, they will be giving out duffle bags for the kids in foster homes.”

It’s all a part of living the faith at what Scoville calls “a life-changing event” for young people.

“Our hope is that they are going to see Christ in others,” she says, “and others will see Christ in them by the end of the conference.”

(The NCYC sessions will also be offered by live feed via the Internet this year. For more information or to access the website for the live feed, log on to http://ncyc.nfcym.org or www.archindy.org.)

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