November 6, 2020

Youth conference hopes to ignite a passion for God

By John Shaughnessy

IGNITE logoWhen the coronavirus crisis started earlier this year, Ali Hoffman and her father chased away their fear and isolation with a rousing, I-dare-you-not-to-smile song-and-dance performance in their kitchen that went viral, drawing millions of viewers on the internet.

It was a celebration of fun, family and life.

On Nov. 22, Hoffman will be part of a different celebration in the archdiocese—a celebration of fun, community and the joy that comes with a relationship with Jesus Christ.

A youth minister, Hoffman will be one of the main speakers for IGNITE, a virtual conference that the archdiocesan Office of Youth Ministry will hold for Catholic teenagers and youth groups in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis and the Lafayette Diocese.

“Ali has got a ton of energy and will draw people in,” says Mary Kate Shanahan, associate director of the Indianapolis archdiocese’s youth ministry outreach. “We’ve also got another great speaker, Brian Greenfield. Brian will be the emcee next year at NCYC [National Catholic Youth Conference]. ”

Featuring interactive activities and breakout sessions, the conference will be presented at two times—1-3:30 p.m. and 7-9:30 p.m.—with one main goal.

“I really just want people to get to know Jesus, to spend time with him and to grow in relationship to him,” Shanahan says. “And we’re hoping this is a catalyst for that. And that it really just sparks some energy as we get ready for NCYC next year.”

IGNITE organizers are also hoping that the conference helps youths, parish groups and their leaders connect more closely, which has been a major challenge since the emergence of the coronavirus in March.

“Our biggest hope is that despite all the things that have happened in 2020 that have been huge obstacles and challenges, the conference will be a way to help parishes have wins—successes—in their youth ministry programs,” Shanahan says.

“It’s an opportunity for youths to still gather and to still have ministry experiences. Because there’s lots of parishes where they haven’t been able to meet for so long or the attendance has gone down so dramatically because of COVID.”

There are different options for participating in IGNITE. For individuals or groups that aren’t able to get together in person at their parish, they can view the conference and be involved in it online.

“The other option is they can meet with their youth group and watch all the main sessions and then do the breakout sessions on their own or watch the breakout sessions,” Shanahan says. “So they’re still able to gather and have interactions with people from their own community.”

Organizers especially hope that youth groups will be able to come together at their parishes in some way for the conference.

“We really want to encourage people to gather and be there in person, to do as much as they can to build those communities,” Shanahan says. “We want to let everybody know, especially the teens, that they’re not alone, that they’re not going through this alone.

“It’s really going to be a great event. We’re still called to go out and evangelize, and we’re still called to build community. We need to continue to be creative and pave the way to better ministry and to building the kingdom of God.”

(For more information about IGNITE, visit The cost of the conference is $15 per youth for groups of 1-15 high school students. It’s $10 per youth for groups of 16 or more. For information on registering for the conference, contact your parish’s youth ministry leader.)

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