November 29, 2019

National Catholic Youth Conference 2019

Hundreds of priests share God’s mercy at NCYC

Father Carlton Beever speaks on Nov. 22 in the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis with a National Catholic Youth Conference participant during a celebration of the sacrament of penance. Father Beever is pastor of St. Mary Parish in Indianapolis. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

Father Carlton Beever speaks on Nov. 22 in the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis with a National Catholic Youth Conference participant during a celebration of the sacrament of penance. Father Beever is pastor of St. Mary Parish in Indianapolis. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

By Sean Gallagher

The National Catholic Youth Conference (NCYC) drew 20,000 youths from across the country to Indianapolis to be inspired by a wide variety of speakers, to be energized by lively, faith-filled music and to share in fun fellowship with smiling, happy Catholic peers far from their homes.

All of this often happened in the conference’s large and loud general sessions in Lucas Oil Stadium where all conference participants gathered several times from Nov. 21-23.

But some of NCYC’s most moving moments were more intimate—moments shared among youths, priests and God in the sacrament of penance.

A large room in the Indiana Convention Center was dedicated to the sacrament. It had chairs where youths could sit facing a priest or have a screen separating them. For 15 hours during the conference, hundreds of priests were able to share God’s mercy with a steady stream of NCYC participants who stood in line for the sacrament.

It was also celebrated during the Friday evening general session in Lucas Oil Stadium where priests heard confessions in the arena’s concourses and on its floor as youths stood in long lines for the sacrament.

Father Timothy Wyciskalla, administrator of St. Mark the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis, said the sacrament of penance “is one of the greatest things they offer at NCYC.”

“This is one of the highlights of the whole thing,” he said after hearing confessions for two hours. “You normally don’t see this. Thousands of kids and hundreds of priests all doing that together.

“It’s quiet and they experience the sacrament of confession, some of them for the first time in a very long time. It’s an intimate, private moment with them and God.”

For Allie Hale, a 17-year-old from Westphalia, Mo., in the Jefferson City, Mo., Diocese, experiencing the sacrament of penance at NCYC was moving.

“It had been a while,” she said as she walked out of the confession room, her voice filled with emotion. “It always makes me so happy. It’s a feeling I don’t get anywhere else. It’s so powerful. Every time I’ve gone, even when I was little, I just remember that feeling—and I wanted that back.”

Celebrating the sacrament of penance at NCYC was also moving for the priests who sat for hours in the confession room.

“It’s one of the main reasons I come,” said Father Jeremy Thies, a priest of the Saint Cloud, Minn., Diocese. He has attended NCYC three times as a priest.

“It fills me with joy in my priesthood,” he said. “I’ve seen so many kids come that maybe haven’t gone to confession in a while, or just really want to unload some powerful and painful woundedness and sinfulness.

“It fills me with hope, because these are young people who have personal encounters with Christ. That’s what it’s all about—a personal encounter with Christ.”

Assisting in the confession room were several volunteers who directed penitents to priests ready to hear their confession. Many were archdiocesan seminarians.

“I can’t imagine how the Lord feels to have so many people coming so much closer to him in this sacrament,” said archdiocesan seminarian Benjamin Popson, a senior at Bishop Simon Bruté College Seminary in Indianapolis.

“I would imagine that it would be overwhelming for a priest in a good way, hearing so many confessions in a day. Confession is one of the more tender aspects of the priesthood.”

Popson also appreciated seeing the sheer numbers of priests in the confession room.

“There were so many different priests, from across the country, from across cultures, wearing anything from jeans to a cassock and surplice,” he said. “But each priest is a tender model of Christ.” †

 

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