Youth encounter Christ at NCYC

Eighteen parishes in southern Missouri can probably still feel the energy that their youth and adults brought back from their experiences at the National Conference of Catholic Youth (NCYC) held Nov. 19-21 in Indianapolis. Fifty-three adult chaperones and pastors accompanied 174 high-school youth from around the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau to interact with close to 25,000 other Catholics in order to learn more about Jesus and themselves as Catholic disciples.

“I was overcome with the Holy Spirit and was filled with joy,” said Jordan Hayes, 10th grade, Our Lady of the Lake Parish, Branson, “Meeting people from all over the United States, and talking to them and learning about their lives, was probably one of my favorite parts.”

“Though it was nothing compared to Mass that Saturday night with 25,000 people praising Jesus and receiving Communion … you could practically feel the Holy Spirit in the room. I’m so glad I was blessed with this amazing experience that I’ll never forget,” Hayes said.

Under the general theme of “Here I Am Lord,” general sessions, workshops, opportunities for service, and the sacraments were all there to enjoy, as well as the chance to dance or play basketball. The goal of NCYC is to engage the head, heart, and hands of all participants.

Speakers included Jackie Francois Angel, a full-time speaker, singer/songwriter, and worship leader from Orange County, CA. Besides being the artist of two albums with spiritandsong.com, she travels the globe speaking to young people about God’s love. International youth speaker, vocalist, and beatboxer Paul J. Kim was also on-hand to share his passion for Jesus Christ and the New Evangelization via music, comedy, and inspirational talks. He has a BA in philosophy from Franciscan University, and an MA in marriage and family therapy from Hope International University.

“NCYC was really terrific this year!” said Troy Casteel, diocesan Director of Family Ministries and Coordinator of Youth Ministry. “The young people were so enthusiastic and had so many faith-building experiences. For so many of them, being around 23,000 other Catholics helps them realize that the Church is truly universal. I believe it helps them feel less isolated when the majority of the people in their communities are from the protestant faith tradition.”

“Before going to NCYC, I had definitely not been the best of Christians,” said Zeke Witty, 10th grade, Branson. “Sure, I went to church and PSR every week, but whenever I was outside of church I didn’t really live through God and put him first in whatever I did.”

“After going to NCYC and listening to the speakers, it made me realize that there is more to being a Christian than simply going to church regularly and calling it good,” Witty said. “Being a Christian is about helping to lift up the spirits of those around you, no matter who they are. It’s about forgiving and helping others.”

I am especially heartened by the great work and generous spirit of the youth leaders and adult volunteers who went along to NCYC and who did so much work long before the pilgrimage in preparation for NCYC,” Casteel said. “We are truly blessed in southern, Missouri to have such wonderful disciples who really do love, serve, and share Jesus with all those around them!”

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