December 11, 2009

National Catholic Youth Conference 2009

Youth minister: Future of our faith rests in experiences that young people have now

By Dawn Schepers (Special to The Criterion)

The National Catholic Youth Conference (NCYC) is not an experience you want to miss with the youths from your parish.

Their awe and wonder when more than 21,000 youths (and chaperones, of course) gather to celebrate their faith is not something to take lightly. You want to scoop it up and save it so you can show the parish back home. The future of our faith and our parishes rest in the experiences our young people have now.

I went to my first NCYC in 2007 as a youth minister. I didn’t have any teenagers sign up, but I wanted the experience for 2009 when I knew I would have interested youths.

I’m glad I had that chance. There is paperwork to fill out, funds to raise and deadlines to meet. There is also arranging the gathering for the big departure on a motor coach, and making sure that the teenagers have food and money for their meals as high school youths are always hungry and ready to eat.

I had nine innocent youths, one innocent dad and two experienced adult females (myself and a parent who went when it was held in Texas). We traveled more than eight hours on the charter bus to and from Kansas City. We were in the group of four buses from the New Albany Deanery—part of the contingent of more than 600 people from the archdiocese.

National speakers laughed, spoke and “talked” with the youth in sessions. There was a dance, a comedy club, and areas to relax, buy T-shirts and gather with your group.

One conversation I remember having with “my kids” on the last day was about the Mass that we were going to participate in that night. They groaned a little when I said it was scheduled to last more than two hours. They also didn’t think we would get Communion.

That night, before the Mass, they saw more than 180 priests and bishops processing into the center. And we all received Communion. How many adults can say they have had that experience?

More than two weeks have passed since the conference, but the youths and the chaperones from our parish who went are still talking about it. We can’t wait for the 2011 NCYC in Indianapolis!

(Dawn Schepers is the youth ministry coordinator at St. Paul Parish in Sellersburg.) †

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