We are called: by name to love, serve, to be saintsBy: Margie Black Indianapolis IN
‘CALLED’ was the theme of the 2017 National Catholic Youth Conference (NCYC), and some 25,000 young people felt ‘called’ to be there. Held Nov. 15-18 in the Indiana Convention Center, youth groups from all over the US, including Hawaii and Alaska, traveled to Indianapolis to attend the conference that occurs every other year.
Eighteen parishes and missions of the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau were represented at NCYC 2017 by 231 youth and adult leaders. Participants from the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau came together for a special Mass celebrated by Fr. Joseph Kelly, associate pastor of Our Lady of the Lake Parish, Branson; Fr. Colby Elbert, associate pastor of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, Springfield, and St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Nixa; and Fr. J. Friedel also accompanied the diocesan group. Fr. Friedel is pastor of St. Peter the Apostle Parish, Joplin, and St. Ann Parish, Carthage.
The National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry (NFCYM) puts on the event in a distinctly Catholic setting that invites participants to encounter Christ, to more richly experience the Church, and to be empowered for discipleship. Pope Francis has said, “The joy of the gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus.” NCYC provided its participants countless opportunities to encounter Jesus!
General & breakout sessions
Featured speakers included a nationally-acclaimed line-up, such as Chris Stefanick, Sr. Miriam Heidland, SOLT, Roy Petitfils, Brian Greenfield, Fr. Joseph A. Espaillat, II, and Emily Wilson. Each morning began with a general session at Lucas Oil Stadium with powerful music, prayer, and guest speakers who inspired the audience with stories about their own personal faith journey. They shared their testimonies of low points and moments of weakness and how their relationship with Christ grew once they surrendered themselves to Him. Witness talks and various presentations reminded those gathered that each of us are indeed worthy of a love so great.
Throughout each day, workshops and break-out sessions delivered various messages of faithfulness and spiritual growth that resonated with Catholic youth as well as adult leaders. Topics for youth included getting more out of Mass, conversion, vocations, self-control, saints, becoming disciples, relationship goals, suffering and loss, what’s next after high school, Theology of the Body, the Holy Spirit, morality, and much more. Sessions were also available for the adult leaders and chaperones. This track of topics included balancing family, faith, and fun, parenting for purity and morality in today’s world, college prep for Catholic families, marriage enrichment, and other useful and inspiring subject matter.
Sacraments & spiritual enrichment
Opportunities for prayer—both personal and communal—were abundant: Mass was offered at least two different times each day; Eucharistic Adoration and the rosary were available daily; and the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation was open several hours every day. One of the pivotal moments was evening Eucharistic Adoration. One could’ve heard a pin drop. The respect and reverence shown to the Blessed Sacrament by 25,000 individuals, many on their knees, was very moving and overwhelming.
The closing liturgy with Abp. Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, principal celebrant at NCYC, was the culmination of NCYC, amid a sea of clergy—hundreds of seminarians, priests, bishops and archbishops were in attendance as well many consecrated religious sisters and brothers. Popular Catholic and Christian musicans prayerfully lead NCYC in song through praise and worship music.
The exhibition hall allowed participants to explore the various ways God calls disciples through talking with some of the guest speakers, priests, brothers, sisters, artists, missionaries, authors, vendors, and more. It was also an opportunity to score all kinds of freebies—from rosaries and t-shirts, to pens and sunglasses, books and blessings. Many Catholic colleges and universities were represented, as were various religious orders.
Opportunities for several community service projects were available. For example, youth from St. Peter the Apostle Parish, Joplin, formed an assembly line that filled individual sacks with rations of beans, rice, protein powder, and flavor packets that would eventually be boxed up and sent to the hungry in Cambodia.
“It made me realize how much we take for granted,” said Emma Leach. “Just one portion of one of our meals might be what they get for an entire day!”
This was the second time that senior Becca Freitas, from St. Mary Parish in Joplin, attended NCYC. Since she knew what to expect, she was deliberate to open herself up to what God was trying to tell her. She said it was wonderful to meet new people and immerse herself in the “amazing and unique ‘young’ Catholic Church.”
“Being around that many other Catholics is very reaffirming,” Freitas said. “Going to a place where there are so many other kids my age who are just trying to get in touch with their faith really helped open my eyes to how we are all loved and cherished and called by God.”
Funding for conferences like these comes from the annual Diocesan Development Fund (DDF), the Youth Endowment Fund of the recent Capital Campaign, personal financing, parish support, and a great deal of fundraising, as well as grants from the Endowment Fund for Lay Leadership.
Access to video streaming and DVDs of the 2017 NCYC sessions may be found at ncyc.info. For year-round inspiration, follow NCYC on social media @NationalCatholicYouthConference.