November 24, 2017

National Catholic Youth Conference 2017

Youths experience God’s mercy in sacrament of penance at NCYC

Bishop William F. Medley of Owensboro, Ky., speaks on Nov. 17 with a National Catholic Youth Conference participant during the sacrament of penance celebrated in a large conference room in the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis. Dozens of priests and bishops heard confession for hours during the conference. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

Bishop William F. Medley of Owensboro, Ky., speaks on Nov. 17 with a National Catholic Youth Conference participant during the sacrament of penance celebrated in a large conference room in the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis. Dozens of priests and bishops heard confession for hours during the conference. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

By Sean Gallagher

The opportunities seemed endless.

The National Catholic Youth Conference (NCYC) held on Nov. 16-18 in Indianapolis offered 20,000 youths from across the country a host of speakers to be inspired by, games to play, musical artists to hear, service projects to take part in and booths of exhibitors to visit.

Among this broad array of opportunities, though, many youths made it a priority to experience God’s mercy in the sacrament of penance.

Youths filling Lucas Oil Stadium and the halls and conference rooms of the Indiana Convention Center could be seen wearing colorful stickers that read, “I’m forgiven,” which they received after leaving the large room in which dozens of priests and bishops heard confession for several hours during the conference.

“This is important for me, because I felt that a lot of my sins were weighing me down and keeping me away from God,” said Fatima Agredano, a Catholic youth from Elgin, S.C., in the Diocese of Charleston, S.C. “Having the sacrament of penance helped relieve that. Having so many priests there for us helps me realize that I’m not the only one and makes me feel more welcome.”

Fatima comes from a state where Catholics are a distinct minority, making up only about 3 percent of its population. She said coming to NCYC in Indianapolis two years ago was a starting point for embracing her faith through her own choice.

“That’s where it all started,” she said. “So I just wanted to come back, relive that and grow in faith more. My Catholic faith is the center of my life. I at least try my hardest to keep it that way. It’s really important to me and has been for a while now.”

Cole Kreinbring experienced the sacrament of penance at NCYC for only the second time since he and his family were received into the full communion of the Church earlier this year in his hometown of Davenport, Iowa.

“It was a big deal for me to kind of cleanse myself,” said Cole as he left the room where the sacrament of penance was celebrated.

Coming to NCYC as a newcomer to the Church, Cole experienced the conference as a great boost to his faith.

“It is truly incredible,” he said. “I can’t really explain the experience. It’s amazing to feel like you’re part of something much, much bigger than yourself, especially at such a young age. I never had that before, so it’s really mind-blowing to me. I feel like it’s going to improve my relationship with God very dramatically.”

Coming out of the room a little later was Bishop Joseph G. Hanefeldt of Grand Island, Neb. He was attending NCYC for the first time, and was impressed by the number of youths who were attending and taking the opportunity to experience God’s mercy in the sacrament of penance.

“How beautiful this is and how powerful God is to not just forgive the past sins of the youths and all those who come, but also in how much grace is being poured out for their days to come,” he said. “It’s exciting. There’s so much good out there. In the news, we always hear about the bad and tragic. I wish the average person at home could see how there is so much good in the young people here and see how kids who really want to live their faith.”

Karen Romero is a high school senior in Perry, Iowa, attending her first NCYC. She chose to go to confession in part to prepare herself for the closing Mass of the conference celebrated on Nov. 18 in Lucas Oil Stadium.

“It’s really important for me to go in with a clean soul,” Karen said. “As teenagers, it’s so hard. We’re surrounded by sin. We love God and we show that love by having clean souls.

“All these people share the same faith that I have. It makes me want to go to confession even more, because I know that I’m not alone in this. I’ve gone through some struggles in my life and the only thing that has kept me going in a good, positive attitude is God.”

Caelan Murphy from Ithaca, N.Y., was attending her first NCYC. She said celebrating the sacrament of penance would help her focus more on the good she was receiving at the conference.

“It will definitely make it easier to remember the highlights of the trip and the things that really spoke to me, because I’m not worrying about all the other stuff that’s been weighing me down,” she said. “I can then go back and share that with everyone else in my parish and town.

“I have more time to think about that and do something about that instead of worrying about stuff that I brought with me here. I’ll leave it here, and go back and talk about what I learned.” †

 

(See all of our NCYC 2017 news coverage here)

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