November 27, 2015

National Catholic Youth Conference 2015

Youth conference opens teenagers’ eyes to variety of vocational paths

Youths from the St. Cloud, Minn., Diocese play a Catholic trivia game on Nov. 19 with Felician Sisters Eliana Remiszewewska, left, and Mary Beth Bromer in the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis during the National Catholic Youth Conference. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

Youths from the St. Cloud, Minn., Diocese play a Catholic trivia game on Nov. 19 with Felician Sisters Eliana Remiszewewska, left, and Mary Beth Bromer in the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis during the National Catholic Youth Conference. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

By Sean Gallagher

Catholic teenagers are at an age where they are starting to consider seriously the path they will follow as they become adults.

The Catholic faith encourages them to enter into this consideration through prayer, seeking to know the vocation to which God is calling them.

The 23,000 teens who participated in the National Catholic Youth Conference held on Nov. 19-21 at the Indiana Convention Center and Lucas Oil Stadium, both in Indianapolis, had many opportunities to have the seeds of vocations planted in their hearts.

Hundreds of diocesan priests, deacons and members of scores of religious orders took part in the conference.

“It’s great to be energized by the youths and their enthusiasm,” said Felician Sister Eliana Remiszewewska, who ministers at St. Turibius Parish in Chicago. “It’s great to see so many young people who want to live their Catholic faith, who want to meet Christ.”

Sister Eliana’s life and ministry as a religious represents the diversity of vocations in the Church, and the twisting path that God can lead people on in their calling.

She was born in Poland and served as a missionary in Africa before ministering to Hispanic Catholics in Chicago.

“Christ is the one who is calling people,” Sister Eliana said. “But we can always give a witness to how beautiful this life is when we really give everything to Jesus, and love him every day more and more.”

Anna Schneider and Kauleen Dee came to NCYC from the Covington, Ky., Diocese. They appreciated the variety of vocations on display.

“There are a lot of Catholic organizations and religious orders,” said Anna, 16. “It’s cool to see how they all come together as one. Seeing so many people who love their vocation makes you kind of lean toward it.”

Kauleen, 17, said attending the conference opened her eyes to many religious communities that do not minister in her diocese.

“We have retreats at school where we go and visit nuns,” she said. “But I think it’s cool to see different nuns from different states talking about what they do in their vocation.”

Sister Krista von Barstel, a member of the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon, came to NCYC from across the country. But she knows just attending the conference was a big part of planting the seeds of vocations.

“We never know the impact of our presence. But God’s in charge,” said Sister Krista, who is director of the Catholic Youth Organization and Camp Howard for the Archdiocese of Portland. “Just our presence and being present with them makes an impact. You’ve got to be there.”

In addition to meeting priests, deacons and religious in various settings at NCYC, youths also had the chance to pray about their vocation during liturgies and in a eucharistic adoration chapel at the conference. There was a quiet room with comfortable chairs called “Inspiration Nook” where youths could have more personal conversations with attendees representing various vocations.

The last afternoon of the conference featured a series of breakout sessions to help youths enter into vocational discernment.

Redemptorist Father Lamar Partin, a vocations director for the order’s Denver Province, manned a booth in the conference’s thematic park, where several religious orders also had booths and interacted with youths.

“It’s a good sign for the young people to see that we’re still here,” said Father Lamar of the presence of so many religious. “We’re energetic, and believe in what we’re doing. And we love the vowed life. Hopefully, it will be a witness to them to join.”

Dominican Father Raymond-Marie Bryce, associate pastor of the St. Paul Catholic Center in Bloomington, walked the halls of the Indiana Convention Center in his order’s white habit.

He soon discovered that it was a “fantastic target” for youths to clip on clothespins that had their names and hometowns written on them—a favorite tradeable at the conference.

“About every 10 minutes, I have to look to check myself to see if they’ve tagged me,” said Father Raymond-Marie with a laugh.

He reflected that just spending time at NCYC helped youths see that “religious life is not dour. We can have fun, smile, enjoy a cup of coffee and a slice of pizza just like everybody else.” †

 

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