I wish I could capture in words in the space and time available to me
all that I have experienced during the past 10 days. I spent them in
Washington, D.C., for a meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic
Bishops and, in Houston, Texas, for the National Catholic Youth
Of the former event, I will say that the highlight was the ceremony
at which an award was presented to the Catholic Community at Ithaca
College. This citation, presented by the National Association of Campus
Ministry, recognized an outreach program to Catholic students who had
drifted away from the church because of the misconceptions of church
teaching. Mary Humaney, one of our chaplains at Ithaca, and Matthew
Camporese, a student at Ithaca College from Long Island, accepted the
award on behalf of the community.
Five other campus communities received awards as well. One of the
delights of that annual event is the opportunity it provides to
converse with young people like Matt, and to hear their faith and the
imaginative things they do to build up the kingdom.
At the end of the reception Mary, Matt and I had a delightful
conversation over dinner at a nearby restaurant. Congratulations to all
at the Catholic Community at Ithaca College.
From Washington about 35 of us bishops flew to Houston to
participate in the National Catholic Youth Conference. We were joining
some 24,000 teens for three days of study, prayer, song, dance, humor
and celebration of the faith.
Our delegation numbered nearly 850. From all that I observed, the
kids had a wonderful time. I was told by several of our adult leaders
how many positive comments people made about our group — their
courtesy, respect for other’s property, and general spirit of patience
and cooperation when things were slow or did not work out as
As you might expect, in gatherings as large and complicated as NCYC,
there will be snags and disappointments. We experienced weather
concerns, price hikes for transportation and over-booking of hotel
space. Most difficult of all were the constant problems we had with
busing, which caused delay and confusion. Because of the busing
concerns of those days, the judgment was made that in order to be on
time for their departing flights, some of our group would have to miss
the closing liturgy. That was sadness for them. I can tell you that it
saddened all of us. During the Mass, we were all deeply united in
spirit with our friends who were not there.
But through it all — even in the disappointments — our kids and
the adults with them were just wonderful.
I had the honor of preaching the homily at the closing liturgy,
which was held at Reliant Stadium, the home of NFL’s Houston Texans. It
was quite a thrill to stand in the midst of over 20,000 young people
from all parts of our nation, and to try to offer them a message that
would help them live their faith. I enjoyed every single minute of it
but — believe me — I was very happy when I finished.
An important part of NCYC is the Youth Congress. This gathered a
total of 300 NCYC participants from all parts of the country to spend a
good part of Friday probing Catholic social teaching. Six of the
participants came from our diocese. Four of them were Mark Thiell from
Christ the King, Irondequoit; Matt Bukowski from Guardian Angels,
Henrietta; Emily Carlock from St. Patrick, Mt. Morris; and Jamie Farley
from Holy Cross, Charlotte. In addition to these four, Elizabeth Hohl
and Paul Kurtenbach represented Scouting in the eight dioceses of our
These most impressive young people worked hard in preparation for
the event in Houston. They read “A Place at the Table” a recent USCCB
statement dealing with overcoming poverty. They met with some of our
Catholic Charities staff and interviewed people who offer and receive
services. Part of their preparation was a conversation with their
bishop. I enjoyed that opportunity immensely, and was much impressed by
the grasp our young friends had on this complex theme.
Now the event is over and most who enjoyed the days in Houston are
back home. I can imagine that it took a strong effort for our friends
to leave their beds and get off to school today. But I envision that
they managed well. It’s amazing to me how quickly they can recharge
I am writing this in the Cincinnati airport on Monday morning. Last
night the flight I was on was overbooked. No one volunteered to
surrender their seats for compensation, so I was among the three
passengers who were bumped. I must confess that I was weary and a
slightly unhappy camper at that moment. But I have enjoyed very much
this quiet opportunity to think and write about people who mean a great
deal to me. And, it has given me a chance to think about what happened
in Houston, its meaning for all of us who were there and for our whole
When you run into NCYC participants — teens and adults — I hope
that you will encourage them to tell you about the event. In the
telling, I think, come insights into what the Lord was offering us all
in those days. Many good seeds were planted there. You can help them
come to full fruit by your continuing interest and support.
I thank each and every person from our diocese who was a part of
NCYC. I couldn’t be more proud of you.
Peace to all.