Event will deepen youths' faith - Catholic Courier
Matthew H. Clark Matthew H. Clark

Event will deepen youths’ faith

On Aug. 28-29, high-school students from all parts of our diocese will be in Rochester for our annual Diocesan Youth Convention. The gathering theme for the event is “Plant Justice, Harvest Peace.”

In my opinion, this annual gathering of our teens has been a richly significant one for those young people who have participated through the years, and for the youth ministers and adult volunteers who so generously accompany them. I say that because adults who participated as teens years ago speak to me today about the formative influence the convention had on them. One has a sense in listening to them that seeds were indeed planted at those gatherings, that they took root and continue to flourish.

I am happy that this year’s convention will deepen our young people’s awareness of the treasure of our Catholic social teaching. The keynote speaker, Sal Solo, will introduce the theme in general session. Then our young friends will visit parish sites around the city, at which places they will meet with experienced pastoral ministers who will speak to them — and hear from them — on a range of social concerns such as poverty, racism and violence. A part of the experience will be a meditative, prayerful walk through some of our urban neighborhoods.

It is always a good thing when the youths of our diocese come together. There is something powerful in the gathering. The youths come to realize, in a wonderful way, that others just like them share their faith journey and support them in it. It’s a natural and telling lesson for them — for all of us — that our particular parishes are part of a larger family, and that the relationship among us runs very deep.

This will be especially evident to our young people during their visits to some of our city parish communities. Our urban teens and their youth ministers are quite excited about hosting peers from suburban, rural and small-city parishes. They are proud of their communities, and want to share both the richness and challenges of their life. For those visiting, there will be an experience of parish life and neighborhood realities that will be quite different from what they have ever experienced. All, I am sure, will come away with a stronger, more inclusive sense of the church’s life and of the diversity by which it is enriched.

I should add that an important part of the gathering is the opportunity for the kids to relax and have fun together. And have fun they do — in dance and song and skits and fantastic, wide-ranging conversations. I know that one of the joys for me of participating in the convention over the years is sitting at table for meals with the kids, and joining in their fun and games (as much as my age and infirmities allow!). Each year I learn a lot I never knew before.

Having said all of that about this year’s Diocesan Youth Convention, I must now acknowledge that this is one of those rare years in which I will not be present for the event. After I had made arrangements for my annual retreat, the organizers had to change the date because of hotel arrangements. I understand that perfectly well, and I trust that they understand the commitment I have to my retreat. But believe me, I will miss very much being with the kids. I did make a videotape through which I will greet them at the beginning of the event, and look forward to seeing a DVD of the convention’s highlights.

I know that you will receive our young friends warmly when they return home, and I know you will enjoy it when, as so often happens, they are invited to speak to their parish communities about the experience. Thanks very much for your support of our young people. Events such as this convention, retreats and other such opportunities would not be possible without your support.

Peace to all.

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