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In a soft voice touched with reverence, 17-year-old Nicole Richardson recalled one of the most poignant moments of the National Catholic Youth Conference in Indianapolis on Nov. 17-19.
It was a moment that revealed the depth of faith that many young Catholics share, a moment that showed the hope and the promise of the Catholic Church now and for the future.
The moment occurred as Nicole walked toward the Indiana Convention Center in the late afternoon of Nov. 17 with her group of 34 teenagers and adults from Holy Cross Parish in Orlando, Fla.
Across the street, the heavy wooden doors of St. John the Evangelist Church suddenly opened and a eucharistic procession of about 2,000 people—mostly teenagers from the Archdiocese of Indianapolis—flowed down Capitol Avenue and toward the main entrance of the convention center, stopping traffic at rush hour in the heart of the city.
Seeing the Eucharist on display in a new 3-foot-high monstrance made in Poland, Nicole and the others in her group knelt on the sidewalk as the procession passed on a cold, windy and gray day.
“It was so beautiful to see in such a busy city how quiet and reverent it was,” Nicole recalled later. “Even if you weren’t Catholic or you don’t have religion, it would have showed you how faith can change people, how faith can change the world.”
Moved by the scene, the group from Holy Cross Parish joined the end of the procession, adding their voices to the people who repeatedly and softly sang the refrain from the hymn Ubi Caritas—“where charity and love are, God is there.”
As the procession weaved its way through the crowded halls of the convention center toward a chapel that had been created in one of the ballrooms, teenagers and adults lined the route, most standing quietly, others bending to kneel, some wiping away tears.
“With everyone singing the same chant, it just felt like we were all one,” said Justus Schremmer, 17, a member of St. Mary Parish in Russell, Kan. “There was that feeling of unison. It was the feeling of being part of something bigger.”
That same feeling had marked the Archdiocese of Indianapolis’ opening Mass of the conference, just before the eucharistic procession. St. John Church overflowed with young worshipers as the sacred choir of Marian University in Indianapolis set the mood for the Mass with these lyrics from the entrance song, “The spirit of God is deep within us.”
Calling upon that spirit, Bishop Christopher J. Coyne used his homily to encourage the archdiocese’s contingent to show their hospitality to the 23,000 people who came to the conference from across the country.
“It’s a moment for us to be hosts, to be people of great, warm hospitality who invite people to get to know us, who invite people to get to know our city, who invite people to get to know our faith,” Bishop Coyne said.
Thirty minutes later, that spirit and faith touched more lives as the eucharistic procession flowed from the church, into the street and through the convention center.
“I had never done anything like that,” said an awed Briana Killian, 16, a member of St. Jude Parish in Indianapolis. “It’s just pure amazement to me.” †