November 25, 2011

Bishops enjoy seeing vibrancy of youths’ faith at conference

Bishop Charles C. Thompson of Evansville, Ind., left, gives a signed trading card of himself to Catherine Nguyen of New Orleans on Nov. 18 in the National Catholic Youth Conference’s thematic park at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

Bishop Charles C. Thompson of Evansville, Ind., left, gives a signed trading card of himself to Catherine Nguyen of New Orleans on Nov. 18 in the National Catholic Youth Conference’s thematic park at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

By Mary Ann Garber

As they picked up pens, the bishops smiled at the teenagers waiting in line for their autographs on special trading cards in Victory Park, the theme park at the National Catholic Youth Conference, on Nov. 18 in Indianapolis.

During the three-day conference, 29 bishops participated in liturgies, general assemblies, roundtable discussions and autograph sessions.

“It’s really an awesome experience to see so many of our young people gathered in faith,” said Bishop Kevin C. Rhodes from the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend in northern Indiana.

“It’s kind of like a mini-World Youth Day,” Bishop Rhodes said. “I was with our young people in Madrid [last August], and this kind of brings back memories of that. It’s always uplifting to see their joy in the faith, and also to see their prayer together. I just came from a holy hour with many of the young people, and it was so prayerful, so intense in a way, with all of us worshiping Jesus.”

Bishop Paul D. Etienne of Cheyenne, Wyo., a native of Tell City and former priest of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, said 20 teenagers from his diocese participated in the national conference.

“It’s wonderful to see so many people come together, especially so many young people at the opening session last night and again this morning,” Bishop Etienne said, “and to see their energy and to see the content of the faith being discussed in the presentations. It’s good that it’s not just about entertainment. It really is about learning our faith in Christ and witnessing to Christ. To see our young people excited about that excites me as a bishop.

“It’s good to see everybody enjoying themselves and to see so many of the Indianapolis people that are volunteers and the crew behind the scenes that make all this possible,” he said of friends from his home archdiocese.

“I think our young people in general have a greater awareness of the role of the bishop in terms of being a spiritual father and being that person of Christ in the midst of the diocese,” Bishop Etienne said. “I’ve sensed that energy and that love, if you will. It’s very heartening.”

Bishop Earl A. Boyea from the Diocese of Lansing, Mich., paused from signing his trading cards to reflect on the meaning of the national youth gathering.

“I think it’s just great that we can help these young people attach themselves to Christ and find out how much Christ is attached to them,” Bishop Boyea said. “I really think that’s the key.”

Archbishop Roger L. Schwietz from the Archdiocese of Anchorage, Alaska said spending time with Catholic teenagers and young adults is “a great support for my own faith.”

He did this in part during the conference in the bishops’ roundtable discussions with Catholic teenagers from across the country.

“The discussion I had this morning … was wonderful,” Archbishop Schwietz said, “talking to them about their struggles in their faith and asking me questions about how they can be stronger in their faith. It’s wonderful to see how they take their faith seriously and want to know how they can live it more fully as adults. It’s been a great, great experience here.”

Bishop Peter F. Christensen from the Diocese of Superior, Wis., said participating in the National Catholic Youth Conference “should be a required event for every bishop after the Baltimore meeting because it really rejuvenates your faith. The enthusiasm and the energy of the youths are very contagious.”

(Reporter Sean Gallagher contributed to this story.)

 

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