February 4, 2011

Pilgrimage helps college students, young adults deepen their faith

Nearly 70 college students and young adults from the Archdiocese of Indianapolis participate in the annual March for Life on Jan. 24 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Matt Faley)

Nearly 70 college students and young adults from the Archdiocese of Indianapolis participate in the annual March for Life on Jan. 24 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Matt Faley)

By Matt Faley (Special to The Criterion)

Nearly 70 college students and young adults from across the archdiocese packed two buses for the 2011 Indy Catholic Young Adult Pilgrimage on Jan. 21-24.

The pilgrimage to Baltimore and Washington, D.C., gave participants the opportunity to deepen their faith and participate in the annual March for Life.

The pilgrims included young adults from various groups around Indianapolis, and students from Butler University, DePauw University, Indiana University, the University of Indianapolis, Ivy Tech Community College and Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

The group kicked off the weekend in Baltimore at the 2011 FOCUS—Fellowship of Catholic University Students—conference. They joined about 1,500 students and young adults from around the country in “answering God’s call to become active participants in his plan for the world”—the theme for the gathering.

That call resonated deeply with many participants in the pilgrimage.

“I remember a couple months ago reading some of the testimonies from FOCUS participants about the conference they attended,” said Beth Conley, a freshman at DePauw University in Greencastle. “Some were very bold, saying the experience was life changing and how it brought God back to their lives. After going through the weekend, I cannot agree with them more.”

Speakers and entertainers from various ministries—including Lila Rose, Curtis Martin, Jesuit Father Robert Spitzer and Audrey Assad—inspired participants with their stories and talents throughout the weekend-long event.

Actors Emilio Estevez and his father, Martin Sheen, were also in Baltimore. Sheen and Estevez were greeted with boisterous applause as they presented a pre-screening of their new movie, The Way, a story that follows a man, played by Sheen, looking for meaning in his life after the loss of his son on the Camino de Santiago, or the Way of St. James, in Spain.

Besides the speakers and entertainment, Mass was celebrated by a bishop each day. Participants also had the opportunity to pray in eucharistic adoration, and 20 priests heard confessions.

“The conference made my faith a lot more real,” said Kevin Duffy, a freshman at Indiana University- Purdue University Indianapolis. “The speaker Saturday night [Chris Stefanick from the Archdiocese of Denver] spoke about how the most fundamental things in our faith should overwhelm us with awe. I was able to really let that sink in for me in adoration.”

Pilgrims had the opportunity to put what they learned into action right away as they traveled to nearby Washington, D.C. on Jan. 24 for the annual March for Life. Students and young adults from the archdiocese joined 400,000 other participants in the peaceful rally and protest of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in the United States.

For some pilgrims, it was their first time attending the march. For others, it was one of many times, but the effect seemed to be the same for all.

Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis freshman Nick Lesch captured the mood of the march.

“I can see peers of my generation doing things actively in their faith. They are making a difference,” he said. “Lila Rose is a great example. She is not going to work and then serving the Lord. She is serving the Lord with her life.”

The event brought the Church in the United States together to stand against the law that has allowed more than 55 million abortions since its inception in 1973.

“As a college student, sometimes it’s hard to fit God into my life. This pilgrimage helped revitalize my faith and really inspired me to bring God back to my college campus,” Conley said. “I am now looking to start a Bible study on my campus, and become more involved through service. It was definitely a weekend I will never forget. I cannot thank the archdiocese enough for the opportunity to go.” †

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