December 2, 2011

Students grow in faith at National Catholic Collegiate Conference

Levi Thompson, from right, Ethan Choates and Jakob Ihli, all of Lake Charles, La., offer praise through music during the National Catholic Collegiate Conference general session on Nov. 19. Young adults from across the country gathered in downtown Indianapolis for the inaugural conference. (Photo by Alea Bowling)

Levi Thompson, from right, Ethan Choates and Jakob Ihli, all of Lake Charles, La., offer praise through music during the National Catholic Collegiate Conference general session on Nov. 19. Young adults from across the country gathered in downtown Indianapolis for the inaugural conference. (Photo by Alea Bowling)

By Alea Bowling (Special to The Criterion)

It wasn’t hard to notice that the National Catholic Youth Conference (NCYC) was being held in Indianapolis on Nov. 17-19 when more than 20,000 energetic high school students filled the downtown streets.

That’s why it may have been easy to miss the other conference for Catholic young people that was held during the same weekend.

Approximately 250 young adults attended the first ever National Catholic Collegiate Conference (NCCC), which was held at the JW Marriott Hotel in Indianapolis in conjunction with NCYC.

Intended to help students make the transition from life as a youth to a young adult, NCCC is the next step for teenagers who enjoyed their NCYC experience in high school.

The conference is a joint effort hosted by the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry (NFCYM), the National Catholic Student Council (NCSC) and the National Catholic Young Adult Ministry Association (NCYAMA). (Related story: ‘Theology of the Body’ workshop highlights NCCC gathering)

Paul Jarzembowski, executive director of NCYAMA, praised the college students who took the risk of attending the first NCCC, calling them “early adopters.”

“That’s what you are, dreamers and early adopters,” Jarzembrowski said in his address to the participants. “You have come here because you can dream about what the Church will look like.”

Bob McCarty, executive director of NFCYM, echoed that theme in his address and emphasized the vision for the future.

“You took the risk. You are the great experiment,” McCarty said.

The general session on Nov. 19, the final day of the conference, began with a performance by the Jacob and Matthew Band and recording artist Danielle Rose.

The keynote presentation was given by Paulist Father Dave Dwyer, host of “The Busted Halo Show” on the Catholic Channel on Sirius XM satellite radio.

Father Dwyer told the young adults to “take the ball and run with it.” He encouraged them to use technology that is already popular to share the faith.

With Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites, it is possible to share thoughts and feelings with hundreds of people at once without having a TV show or even a megaphone, Father Dwyer said.

The students attended smaller breakout sessions in the afternoon, but reconvened as a large group before joining the NCYC participants for the closing Mass on Nov. 19 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

The college students in attendance were excited about being a part of the new conference.

Ethan Choates, a sophomore from Lake Charles, La., hoped that future NCCC gatherings would tackle some of the tougher issues that college students face.

“It’s like they say, ‘you can’t just live on milk.’ You’ve got to get to the meat and potatoes,” Choates said.

Attendance at the college event was a popular discussion topic, with speakers encouraging the participants to bring their friends to future gatherings. Part of what makes NCYC a powerful experience is the number of people who attend, organizers said.

Jakob Ihli of Lake Charles, La., had no complaints about the conference, but added that there is always room for improvement when the National Catholic Collegiate Conference is held again in Indianapolis in 2013.

“Everything was great,” Ihli said. “Obviously, it’s going to grow, and the size is what will make it better.” †

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