November 12, 2010

Indianapolis Catholic Youth Conference 2010

Teenagers are encouraged to make the right choices in their lives

Father R. Tony Ricard, the Catholic chaplain for the New Orleans Saints, holds a carved stick from Senegal during his keynote address on the “Pursuit of Glory” on Nov. 7 at Bishop Chatard High School. (Photo by Mary Ann Wyand)

Father R. Tony Ricard, the Catholic chaplain for the New Orleans Saints, holds a carved stick from Senegal during his keynote address on the “Pursuit of Glory” on Nov. 7 at Bishop Chatard High School. (Photo by Mary Ann Wyand)

By Mary Ann Wyand

Punctuating faith stories with his Cajun-style humor, the Catholic chaplain for the New Orleans Saints captivated 750 Indianapolis Catholic Youth Conference participants on Nov. 7 at Bishop Chatard High School in Indianapolis.

Father R. Tony Ricard, the pastor of Our Lady Star of the Sea Parish in New Orleans and author of several books, entertained teenagers from the Archdiocese of Indianapolis and Diocese of Lafayette with jokes and humorous stories during his keynote address on the “Pursuit of Glory.”

(Related editorial: Youth gathering plants seeds for NCYC 2011 in Indianapolis | Related photos: View or purchase photos from this event)

Yet each of his funny monologues ended with reminders that God has a purpose for each of them, and they should pay attention to his call and make the right choices in life.

“After death, … those who live with God in heaven are called saints,” Father Ricard said. “ … How many of you are planning on being a saint one day?”

As the teens listened attentively, he presented an amusing interpretation of the creation story from the Book of Genesis. But the moral of his talk was serious.

“In the creation story, we realize that God made us to be his disciples,” Father Ricard explained, “to know him, to love him and to serve him so that we can indeed reach that ultimate goal of glory in the kingdom of heaven. But the problem is that we mess it up because we forget that, first, God made us and, second, we’re supposed to be living according to his commandments.”

During his childhood in New Orleans, he said, his mother taught the Ricard children an easy-to-understand lesson on how to live out the Ten Commandments in their daily life.

“One of the things my mama told us when we were little is that every time we left the house there was a simple thing we had to keep in mind,” Father Ricard said. “She would always say, ‘Remember who you belong to, and don’t be stupid.’ She taught us that whenever we left the house, we represented our family. And whatever we did, be it good or bad, was going to reflect on how good a job our parents were doing … in teaching us right and wrong.”

When he got in trouble, his mother always seemed to find out about it before he returned home, the priest recalled. “She would ask, ‘Where have you been? What have you done?’ ”

And he knew there would be major consequences because he had disobeyed her orders.

“The second part of what she always said was ‘Don’t be stupid,’ ” Father Ricard explained. “She taught us that ignorance is when you don’t know something, and stupidity is when you know it’s wrong but you still do it.”

By the ninth grade, he told the teenagers, they already know right from wrong and should stay out of trouble.

“How many talks about drunk driving do you need to hear?” he asked. “You have been to at least four programs and have three T-shirts to prove it. You don’t really need another talk.”

The same rule applies for warnings about the danger of using drugs and problems that arise from premarital sexual relations, Father Ricard said. “All I need to tell you is [that] God told you right from wrong and gave us Ten Commandments. … Follow them and you’re going to be all right.

“If you’re doing something that you know you’re not supposed to do, you can’t plead ignorance,” he said. “… You cannot reach the glory that we’re all striving for by being stupid on Earth. So your challenge is to ask yourself, ‘What might I be doing … that is just plain stupid?’ If you’re doing something that you know will not get you into the kingdom of heaven, … [then] I’ve got the solution for you. Stop. That’s it. It is not that complicated. And if you’re doing something wrong that you don’t think you can stop on your own, find somebody who can help you stop.”

The Catholic Church has “a way of getting rid of stupid stuff,” Father Ricard said. “It’s called the sacrament of penance. All you have to do is go to [confession], do the ‘Bless me, Father, for I have sinned’ part, and just start off with ‘I’ve been stupid’ then list your degrees of stupidity. It’s that simple.

“Your challenge is to be who God made you to be,” the priest emphasized. “Realize that in creating you, he knew what he was doing and he saw that it was very good. And then make sure that you live a life showing him how much you appreciate all that he has done for you, all that he will do for you, and all the ways that he has blessed you and your family. In the end, all God wants is for you to be with him in the kingdom of heaven.”

A call for a ‘new sexual revolution’

Before “The Pill” and the sexual revolution of the 1960s, most couples waited until marriage before they engaged in sexual relations.

When chastity became—in the view of millions—“old-fashioned,” social and moral upheaval followed. Abortion was legalized in 1973, divorce rates soared, families splintered and children suffered.

Pope Benedict XVI is continuing Pope John Paul II’s call for a “new sexual revolution”—a countercultural one that stresses real love, respects the sanctity of the body, strengthens families and lays the foundation for marriage that draws both partners closer to God.

That was the message delivered by Louis and Rebecca Paiz, youth ministers at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Carmel, Ind., in the Diocese of Lafayette, during a Nov. 7 workshop at the youth conference.

“Right now, you are starting to prepare for marriage,” Louis Paiz told a classroom full of teenagers.

The Paizes have been involved in high school youth ministry for 13 years. They were married in 2001, and have four children. They have spoken together and separately at retreats and youth conferences across the United States.

In their presentation, titled “Pursuit of Glory in Others,” they talked about their lives before and after marriage, the importance of chastity, and how human relationships should reflect God’s love.

Louis Paiz said he was overweight in high school and hungry for acceptance. He turned to drinking and pornography, and accepted the notion that to be a man was to “conquer a woman.”

“God intervened, by the grace of God, when I was 18,” he said. “There was a newness in my life. God slapped me on the head.”

Rebecca Paiz said that she dated a college man when she was in high school. She wanted to be told that she was beautiful, that she was loved. The relationship turned toxic.

“If you’re in a relationship and you want to keep it a secret, I’d say, ‘Get out,’ ” she said. “God is the father of truth. If what you are doing can’t be seen in the light, ask God to clean it up.

“The priority has to be in our heart,” she said. “In a relationship, ask, ‘How close can I lead this person to heaven?’ I want to help my husband get to heaven.”

She said she would rather see her children get to heaven than attain the usual career goals. Worldly “success,” after all, she said, is what you make of it.

Chastity should be seen as a positive lifestyle because it brings a person closer to God. She said that temptations should not be indulged or repressed, but brought to Jesus for redemption.

Boundaries in a relationship should be set in advance through prayer, “not when you’re lying on a couch [with a boyfriend or girlfriend] … in the dark,” Rebecca Paiz said.

Teenagers who have abandoned chastity should go to confession, receive forgiveness and vow to start their lives anew.

“Jesus says, ‘I love you. Come back higher, my beloved,’ ” she said. “ … Jesus says, ‘I have another way for you.’ ”

‘God is calling us all to something’

God has a plan for each of us.

Dan Harms and Kyle Heimann are proof of that.

The duo, who make up the Catholic musician and speaking team known as Popple, met after Heimann graduated from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., and began working as a full-time youth minister. Harms came in as a student and started volunteering with Heimann’s youth program.

They began playing, writing and recording music, and now travel around the country “sharing their unique blend of comedic-acoustic-fun-loving music and their passion for their faith,” according to their Web site,

Harms and Heimann were the masters of ceremonies and program presenters at the Indianapolis Catholic Youth Conference. Their message during a workshop resonated with the young people in attendance.

“God is calling us all to something,” said Heimann.

“True happiness is following … where God is calling us,” added Harms.

To get there, individuals need to be “quiet for a little bit” to listen to how God is calling them, Harms added.

No matter what one’s vocation is, he said, we each need to strive to be better servants of others.

Being able to live our lives that way, he added, is “one of the gifts of God’s glory.”

Make your heart available to God

Bishop Timothy L. Doherty of Lafayette was the principal celebrant and homilist for the youth conference Mass.

“There are parts of our pursuit of the glory of God that are intellectual,” Bishop Doherty said in his homily. “… True glory comes by also making our heart available to God.”

Life is a wonderful experience of intellectual discovery and emotional searching, he explained. “God wants our minds and our hearts. Sometimes it is that precise nature of unsettledness in us that keeps us searching. … Bring [your mind and heart] to God’s altar and say, ‘Here, God, this is who I am today. … Please help me. … I’m giving you as much of myself as I can today in prayer.’ ”

The pursuit of glory involves a personal relationship with God, Bishop Doherty said. “Trust Jesus. Trust the love of God. … When you reach out, … [then] God reaches out to you. … God’s greatest wish for us is that we be happy—and happy certainly in heaven—but that we would enjoy the happiness that comes from our dear Creator even here.”

‘Ask God to show you the way’

During a conference workshops on vocations, Father Ricard reminded the teenagers that “all of us are called by God to do something, and when you get the call you better answer it. … Whatever God is calling you to do, do it in the name of Christ. I can guarantee that you will have a great time. .. When you are doing what God needs you to do, you will find true peace. Ask God to show you the way.”

St. Matthew parishioner and Bishop Chatard freshman Delaney Whitlock of Indianapolis said after the keynote address that “Father [Ricard’s] talk was really engaging, and he kept our interest the whole time.”

St. Barnabas parishioner Justin Hoch of Indianapolis, who is a senior at Center Grove High School, said after the conference that he “loved hearing Father [Ricard’s] talk. He’s so inspirational and so upbeat. He told the creation story in a way that we can relate to it.”

Elizabeth Stange, a high school senior and member of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross Parish in Bright, said her faith is re-energized by attending events like the Indianapolis Catholic Youth Conference.

“I love it,” said Elizabeth, who earlier this year attended the archdiocese’s Consumed retreat and participated in the “One Bread, One Cup” liturgical leadership conference at Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology during the summer.

Listening to the talks, she said, and “getting the spiritual high that it gives you … helps carry you through” life’s challenges.

(Editor Mike Krokos and Kevin Cullen, editor of The Catholic Moment, newspaper of the Diocese of Lafayette, contributed to this story.)

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