November 24, 2017

National Catholic Youth Conference 2017

Chaperones, youth ministers are energized by young people’s faith

NCYC participant Nick Nachreiner of the Diocese of Winona, Minn., wears his sporty headgear in the Indiana Catholic Convention Center on Nov. 16. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

NCYC participant Nick Nachreiner of the Diocese of Winona, Minn., wears his sporty headgear in the Indiana Catholic Convention Center on Nov. 16. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

By Mike Krokos and Natalie Hoefer

While the National Catholic Youth Conference (NCYC) focuses on giving 20,000 teenagers the opportunity to deepen their relationship with God, it’s a focus that youth ministers—and many adults—strive for all the time.

Knowing that commitment, The Criterion asked adult chaperones and youth ministers at the conference why they attended, and what they hoped the teenagers gained from their pilgrimage of faith to Indianapolis.

Jeff Scott, a chaperone from St. Malachy Parish in Brownsburg, attending with his son and daughter.

“It shows these guys there are other kids here celebrating their faith at the same time, and making it fun. … There’s incredible energy.

“[I hope] the kids come away understanding the message that they’re trying to share—that they’re called, that they’re chosen, that God’s in them, and that they too need to live up to that higher purpose.”

Joi Hunter, St. Charles Lwanga Parish in Detroit, in the Archdiocese of Detroit. She is a youth minister, and she first attended NCYC in Indianapolis as a chaperone in 2001.

“Now that I’m a youth minister myself and we have a pretty large youth group at our parish, I thought, ‘They have to experience this.’

“I hope the kids come away with a bigger sense of the Church, that it’s not just us alone in our little urban parish, that it increases their faith.”

Sarah Mefford, 7-12th-grade youth leader at her church, St. Pius X Parish in Moberly, Mo., in the Diocese of Jefferson City, Mo. She attended with her younger daughter.

“Two years ago, my oldest daughter and I came, and we were so inspired and moved by the whole process, that it just ignited us that we had to come back.

“It’s very powerful to see this many Catholics worshipping together. It really drives home the fact that we’re part of something bigger than ourselves. We come together, and we all believe the same thing, and there’s so much power in that.

“I hope the kids get the sense that they are loved, that they truly are called, if nothing more than just called to be a child of God.”

Daniel Gaskill, St. Francis Borgia Parish in Blair, Neb., in the Archdiocese of Omaha, Neb. He attended with his 15-year-old son.

“It’s just incredible. It’s been very moving, very emotional. I might start crying right now. Just to see the youths and the way they’re absorbing these different events is something I’ve never witnessed at this magnitude in my entire life.

“I think our deacon, Jeff Zurek, and our priest, Father James [Netusil], said it best: ‘We’re coming here to absorb and learn about Jesus, and take it back home to our families and friends and our community, and that’s what I hope the kids do.’ From what I’ve seen, I think they will.”

Willie St. Pierre, youth minister in the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, La.

“There are so many things in their lives pulling them away from the Church, I think that anytime they can see other youths their ages and them being able to express their faith, that it gives them an opportunity to do the same thing. We can definitely see from coming to NCYC before that when we come back they’re more involved in the Church, taking on more projects. … You can see their faith starting to develop and grow as they come to NCYC.”

Todd Levitas, a youth minister for the Archdiocese of Washington, at NCYC for the first time.

“Just in private conversations, some of these youths are saying they’re growing in their faith—not just emotionally growing but doctrine-wise, knowledge-wise. They said they’re getting a lot out of the talks, a lot about gratitude and a lot about growing in self-knowledge. That’s the best.” †


(See all of our NCYC 2017 news coverage here)

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