November 24, 2017

National Catholic Youth Conference 2017

Bishops find a reason to believe and hope in faith, gifts of young Church

Mia Roberts, a member of the Archdiocesan Youth Council and St. Barnabas Parish in Indianapolis, introduces Archbishop Charles C. Thompson during the Nov. 17 morning session of the National Catholic Youth Conference. (Photo by Bob Nichols)

Mia Roberts, a member of the Archdiocesan Youth Council and St. Barnabas Parish in Indianapolis, introduces Archbishop Charles C. Thompson during the Nov. 17 morning session of the National Catholic Youth Conference. (Photo by Bob Nichols)

By John Shaughnessy

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson smiled as he considered the energy and the enthusiasm of 20,000 young Catholics from 125 dioceses across the country coming together to embrace their faith.

“Young people are like anyone else. They’re looking for a sense of meaning, a sense of purpose in their lives,” the archbishop said as he stood amid the whirlwind of the Indiana Convention Center, one of the main sites of the National Catholic Youth Conference in Indianapolis on Nov. 16-18.

“Coming here shows that young people are looking to where true happiness is, and that’s in relationship to God. It just shows that people are realizing we belong to something greater than ourselves. Young people are finding it in Christ and in this Church. It just shows a sense of hope and vibrancy for our Church for today and for tomorrow.”

The Church needs “the giftedness of young people, their energy and their wonderful insights,” the archbishop said. “They’re essential to our Church and to who we are as people of God.”

Archbishop Thompson was one of about 30 bishops who attended the conference in Indianapolis, after a busy few days of meetings with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops earlier in the week in Baltimore.

The extra effort to be in Indianapolis was more than worthwhile to Archbishop Paul D. Etienne of Anchorage, Alaska.

“I want to do all that I can to build a relationship with our youths so they know of my support for them,” said Archbishop Etienne, a former priest of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis who also served as the bishop of Cheyenne, Wyo.

“I travel around to all of the parishes to confirm them, and I’ve been meeting with the young adults as well. I want to know what their story is, and I want to know how they relate to God, how they relate to Christ and how I can do a better job as a shepherd relating the message of the Gospel and the Good News to them.”

Archbishop Etienne shared his comments shortly after witnessing the enthusiasm of the 20,000 youths in an early morning faith gathering at Lucas Oil Stadium on Nov. 17.

“It’s inspiring,” he said. “We hear how we’re losing this generation. This tells me there’s hope; we’re not.”

Hope also drew Bishop Christopher J. Coyne of the Diocese of Burlington, Vt. He noted that this was the first time that a group of youths had come from Vermont for the national conference.

“A lot of our young people are kind of adrift,” said Bishop Coyne, former auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. “So anything that can get them active in a good way within the faith and within the Church is good. And NCYC sure can do that. You’re with so many other young people and adult chaperones and people with beliefs, and you hear great talks and wonderful music.

“When they come to an event like this, they leave with an experience of the Church that’s much greater than their little parish. And hopefully they leave more committed to being a member of the Catholic Church and also maybe to inviting others to be part of it.”

Simple math and an opportunity for connection led to the presence of Bishop William F. Medley of Owensboro, Ky., at the conference.

“If I get 300 youths together in one place, I ought to be there as their shepherd,” Bishop Medley said on Nov. 17. “The theme this morning was about holiness and wanting to become saints. I want them to know I’m trying to speak that to them as well.”

He was also energized by what he witnessed, calling the faith gathering of 20,000 youths as “countercultural.”

“The Spirit is moving,” Bishop Medley said. “Twenty thousand is a lot of youth. They’ve chosen to be here, to see the vitality of the Church and participate in eucharistic adoration and the Mass. I still run into adults who came here two, four, six, eight years ago. I know good seeds are being planted for a bountiful harvest.” †

 

(See all of our NCYC 2017 news coverage here)

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