November 8, 2019

NCYC is about accompanying one another as we encounter Jesus Christ

By Paul Sifuentes

National Catholic Youth Conference (NCYC) logoI can still recall my first experience of the National Catholic Youth Conference (NCYC). I wasn’t a parish youth minister or a director of youth ministry for this archdiocese, as I am now. I was a freshman in high school who had recently seen his youth minister’s position cut from the parish budget.

My mom, however, would not let that stop me from being involved in youth ministry events that my diocese was involved in. So she, along with a fellow mom in my parish, made sure that I and another teenager made it to NCYC in Kansas City 22 years ago.

I remember several things from that experience: I can put myself back into the room where I heard Doug Brummel share the faith in a way I had never seen before—it was funny! I can remember walking around the thematic village and talking with and meeting people from Catholic organizations all over the world.

The thing I remember the most, however, was my time with those with whom I was traveling: the conversations as we traveled to Kansas City, the meals we shared (and the distances we walked to find them), the time in our hotel, gathering as a group to pray and celebrating the Mass.

It was the relationships in the group that would lead me to be a part of two different mission trips to Sucre, Bolivia. My relationship with Rhona (one of our leaders on the trip) gave me the inspiration that one day I might want to be a youth minister.

This year on Nov. 21-23 marks the fifth time in a row that NCYC will be held in Indianapolis. We talk about how many people will descend on the city. Perhaps we have seen the crazy hats these teenagers wear, or heard about how much joy a group of 20,000 young people can create. But make no mistake, NCYC is about one thing: accompanying one another as we encounter Jesus Christ.

Every two years, Indianapolis becomes a pilgrimage site. Travelers come from all over the country to experience the risen Christ and his Church. Like any good pilgrimage site, whether it be Rome, Jerusalem or the Circle City, it takes more than just showing up at a location to encounter Jesus.

One can travel to Rome and eat pasta, drink wine, snack on gelato and visit the Coliseum—all things that are quite enjoyable—but they very likely will not lead to an encounter with Christ.

Pilgrimages often have guides who are sure to point out the important sites or great locations for prayer. At NCYC, our adults are these guides, pointing out places to see at the conference and having deep conversations about what the teens are experiencing.

Rhona was one of these guides for me. A relationship deepened at NCYC can lead to conversations over a lifetime and also create a prayer partnership.

As preparations are being finalized for NCYC, I would ask for you to do a few things to help us create a fertile site for all our pilgrims:

  • Volunteer your time with us during the weekend. Volunteers are critical to creating an environment where adults are accompanying young people. Volunteers help with many of the tasks that are needed so that these adults chaperoning groups of teens can concentrate on them, not on safety details. Just go to to sign up!
  • Invite a friend to volunteer with you. During previous NCYC gatherings, I encouraged many people to volunteer, and each of them came away energized about their faith and the Church.
  • Pray for our teens who are making a pilgrimage here, that just as the disciples on the road to Emmaus (NCYC’s Scripture theme for 2019) they encounter our Lord and experience their hearts on fire for him.
  • Pray for our adults that their hearts be prepared to walk alongside our teens as Christ walked alongside the disciples on the road, asking questions and intently listening as teens share their hearts.

Many in our young Church are eager to grow in their lives of faith. Please join us at the Indiana Convention Center and Lucas Oil Stadium on Nov. 21-23, and pray that NCYC again bears much fruit.

(Paul Sifuentes is archdiocesan director of youth ministry.)

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