October 1, 2021

Moving experiences and blessings are part of the rewards for volunteers at NCYC

Glen Barker and Lisa Halbert pose for a photo with Dominican Father Patrick Briscoe. Barker and Halbert are volunteer recruiters and managers for the National Catholic Youth Conference in Indianapolis on Nov. 18-20. (Submitted photo)

Glen Barker and Lisa Halbert pose for a photo with Dominican Father Patrick Briscoe. Barker and Halbert are volunteer recruiters and managers for the National Catholic Youth Conference in Indianapolis on Nov. 18-20. (Submitted photo)

By John Shaughnessy

As Glen Barker shares his story about the priest and the tearful teenaged girl, he says it shows how the Holy Spirit makes his presence known in people’s lives.

His story also shows the difference that people can make—when they stop whatever they’re doing to focus on a desperate person in front of them.

That moment happened as Barker was serving as a volunteer at a National Catholic Youth Conference (NCYC) in Indianapolis, the biennial event that has attracted more than 20,000 youths hoping to draw closer to God and their Catholic faith.

(Related: Want to be an adult volunteer at NCYC? Here’s what you need to know)

“As an adult volunteer, our primary focus is keeping our youth safe, [but] you just never know when the Holy Spirit will present itself. One such time—and a most moving experience for me—occurred as we were wrapping up reconciliation on Saturday afternoon,” Barker recalls about the sacrament that thousands of young people embrace during NCYC.

“A nervous young lady approached. When she saw that we were disassembling the reconciliation area, she began to cry and asked me if she had waited too long. She told me she had been preparing for this all afternoon and seemed devastated that she had missed her opportunity.

“I looked around and saw a single priest who was preparing to leave. I approached him and asked if he had time for one more confession. He looked at the young girl and motioned for her to join him. As the two of them sat down, he placed his stole around his neck, and 20 minutes later that teary-eyed girl departed the reconciliation area obviously filled with grace and the mercy of God.

“I thanked the priest for staying overtime, and he assured me that he would have had it no other way. The blessings that were experienced that afternoon, by all involved, are etched in my memory and continue to be a motivating factor in my volunteering for NCYC.”

Barker and his wife, Lisa Halbert, are volunteering at NCYC again this year when the event returns to Indianapolis on Nov. 18-20. They are serving as volunteer recruiters and managers for the conference, along with Kevin McNulty. The couple raves about the faith-filled experience that adult volunteers get to share with the youths.

“I am overwhelmed by our young Church each time I participate in NCYC,” Halbert says. “It is amazing to see the initial eucharistic procession to open the conference. It is a common sight to witness youths, volunteers and [Indiana] Convention Center employees drop to their knees in reverence.

“The first time I was present for a eucharistic adoration in Lucas Oil Stadium with 20,000 youths and adult chaperones, I again was overwhelmed by the silence and total commitment from our youths. We have participated as part of the local steering committee since 2015 and feel as though we long for the opportunity to have the experience as a retreat. Some people long for silent retreats. I long to see 20,000 youths actively participate in worship.”

Halbert and Barker insist that any adult who volunteers for NCYC will be blessed by the experience. Sharing the experience as a couple has provided an extra blessing for them.

“As a couple, wow, our enthusiasm is multiplied,” Halbert says. “Because of the level of emotion, we feel it would be difficult to come home and talk about the event to the other, if only one of us was volunteering. Instead, we come home and live the event through a deeper dedication to our faith, to the Church. One of the greatest blessings is to be able to share this experience firsthand.”

Barker says that about 800 adult volunteers are needed for the conference.

“Many volunteers work multiple shifts allowing them to have varied experiences during the conference,” he says. “Volunteer activities range from directing buses and youths outside, to working with crafts. There is really something for everyone.”

The retired educators—members of St. Ann Parish in Indianapolis—are looking forward to their sixth NCYC experience, knowing the impact it has on their faith.

“Because our Catholic faith is an important aspect of our lives, we were drawn to the Church for volunteer opportunities,” Halbert says. “What a blessing.” †

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