November 29, 2019

National Catholic Youth Conference 2019

Powerful moments during conference lead teens to closer bond with Christ

By John Shaughnessy

Two powerful moments stand out to Paul Sifuentes as he recalls the National Catholic Youth Conference (NCYC) in Indianapolis.

The first one occurred on the evening of Nov. 22 when the 20,000 youths from across the country once again came together in Lucas Oil Stadium, this time for eucharistic adoration.

“They had rushed the stage earlier to get closer to bands, but this time they rushed the stage to get closer to the Lord in the Eucharist,” said Sifuentes, the director of youth ministry for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. “It was powerful seeing them try to get closer to Christ.”

The second special moment for Sifuentes happened on the closing night of the conference on Nov. 23, as Mass was celebrated for the youths from 145 dioceses across the United States and also from Australia, Canada and England.

“Leading up to the conference, we had talked about the highlight of the week needing to be the Mass, and the climax of the Mass needing to be the receiving of the Eucharist. And it was.

“It was beautiful because everyone has a different experience of NCYC, and everyone is on their own pilgrimage, but we all come together at the end, and we all receive Jesus Christ. He’s the one who unites us. He is who empowers us. And he is who sends us forth. And all those youths are going to receive Christ again when they go home.”

Sifuentes hopes the beauty and power of those encounters with Christ stay with the 20,000 youths into the future. He especially hopes that connection continues to shape the lives of the 1,456 youths from the archdiocese who participated in NCYC.

“My hope for them is that they had a powerful experience, an enrichening pilgrimage, and that they see their life as a larger pilgrimage that they’re always journeying. There may not be the crazy hats and the crazy experiences of NCYC, but there are opportunities to encounter Christ and draw closer to Christ” in their families, parishes and communities.

He also sees the youths’ experiences at NCYC as an opportunity for their parishes to make a special effort to learn more about the faith-filled moments their youthful members had during the three-day conference.

“These youths who had these encounters with Christ at NCYC need to come back to their parishes and share their powerful moments,” Sifuentes noted. “Adults should ask them, ‘What were the powerful moments? Where did you see Christ?’ ”

Sifuentes also expressed his appreciation for the more than 900 volunteers who worked to help create a safe environment for the youths and the adult chaperones who accompanied them.

“I am personally thankful for each of them. Their involvement allowed our youth to encounter Christ. And I think those volunteers would say they had a powerful experience themselves.”

He hopes the number of volunteers increases even more in the years ahead when NCYC is scheduled to return to Indianapolis in 2021, 2023 and 2025.

“The more people we can have at NCYC having a powerful experience, the better it is for the proclamation of the Gospel and for the Church in central and southern Indiana.”

Sifuentes says that’s the ultimate goal for the archdiocese in serving as the host for the most recent NCYC and the ones in the future.

“It says we’re committed to youth, that we place a priority on helping teenagers encounter Jesus Christ. We’re a welcoming community, and we’ll work hard and roll up our sleeves for people to join us here.” †


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