November 29, 2013

National Catholic Youth Conference 2013

NCYC participants learn what it means to be adopted by God

NCYC participants from the Diocese of Dodge City, Kan., take photos on Nov. 22 of the 23,000 youths gathered in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis listening to a presentation by Bob Herron, director of youth and young adult ministry for the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, W. Va. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

NCYC participants from the Diocese of Dodge City, Kan., take photos on Nov. 22 of the 23,000 youths gathered in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis listening to a presentation by Bob Herron, director of youth and young adult ministry for the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, W. Va. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

By Sean Gallagher

“Signed, Sealed, Delivered” was the theme of the 2013 National Catholic Youth Conference held from Nov. 21-23 in the Indiana Convention Center and Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

On the morning of Nov. 23, the 23,000 youths from across the country who participated in the conference reflected on and prayed about the “signed” part of that theme and its relationship to baptism during a general session held in Lucas Oil Stadium.

Bob Herron, director of youth and young adult ministry for the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, W. Va., spoke about how those who are baptized are adopted children of God and that, together, they form God’s family.

Herron spoke about this belief out of his experience as the father of three adopted children.

At one point, he asked those in the audience who had been adopted to stand up. Then he explained how everyone who has been baptized has been adopted by God.

“We become adopted by God, who loves us from the first moment of our existence, when we become baptized and part of this Church,” Herron said. “So if you are baptized, you are adopted. So I ask you again, young Church, if you are adopted, please stand up.”

Everyone in the stadium stood up and thundered their applause.

To help them appreciate their being a part of God’s family and to share that good news with others, Herron had conference participants take out their cell phones, take a picture of the tens of thousands that filled the stadium and then post it to social media.

“We’ve got a big family here,” Herron said. “And everybody knows what to do when you’re with your family. Get out your cell phones and get ready, because we are going to take the biggest family picture ever.”

Later, Herron reflected on how God’s family is enriched by the talents of each of its members.

“Our job, young Church, as a family, is to help one another see what gifts they have and then to help them live those gifts out,” he said. “Part of being a family, an adopted family, and living out our baptism means using those gifts and giving them back to God.”

Herron also challenged the teenagers to reach out in love and support to their adopted brothers and sisters who might be picked on or bullied in their schools or in other settings.

He invited the audience to pause and think of one person in that situation that they know.

“Think of that person,” Herron said. “When we become part of God’s adopted family and become a son and a daughter, we are called to love. I believe this. When Jesus died on that cross, he died for my sins. When he died on that cross, he died for your sins. And guess what, young Church—when he died on that cross, he died for that person that you were just thinking about now.

“We are called to love and to reach out to those people, and pray for those people and to help them become part of the family of God that we are already a part of.”

Finally, Herron shared the story of his father who struggled with Lou Gehrig’s disease for years. Shortly before he died, the father shared an important life lesson with his son.

“He looked at me and said, ‘Bob, if I’ve learned anything through my dying it’s this: You cannot repay love. You only pass it on,’ ” Herron said. “My challenge to you, young Church, is to share that love with one another here and when you go home.

“We are called, young Church, to share that love that God freely gives to us. In our baptism, he says, ‘I love you,’ and he pursues you with reckless abandon. He pursues you constantly. He doesn’t ask you, though, to repay that love. He asks you to pass it on.”

The Nov. 22 morning session in Lucas Oil Stadium ended with a prayer service led by Bishop Mark L. Bartchak of the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, Pa. It featured bishops attending the conference going throughout the stadium and blessing the conference’s participants with holy water as a reminder of their baptism.

“I love the communion of saints,” Bishop Bartchak said. “Not only the ones that are in heaven. But I’m looking around this place today, seeing that we are filled in this place with living saints.

“You are part of the communion of saints. And so we pray with and through and for each other. What a wonderful communion to belong to, because we are adopted children of God.” †
 

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