I am still enjoying memories of the National Catholic Youth Conference held in Columbus, Ohio, Nov. 8-10. More than 20,000 young people from all parts of our country gathered to celebrate, to share and to grow in the faith.
It was an exhilarating and often moving experience to be in their company for that event. Those who spoke to them in general sessions were all excellent presenters with messages of challenging substance, and from all I witnessed and heard, I can make similarly positive statements about those who offered a wide range of workshops to our young people.
In addition to the plenary and small-group presentations, there were music and dance, games, a variety of displays by vendors and information booths on a variety of subjects of interest to our teens.
We had a delegation numbering well over 700 members from the Diocese of Rochester. Judging from my own experience and what I heard from others, our kids had a wonderful time. That is not a surprise to me. Over the years, I have come to realize that these events often become a point of reference which participants cite as important to them years later.
I wish that I could describe well what it is like to be in one arena with 20,000 teens as they celebrate their faith. At one moment, they can be still and attentive as they listen to a presenter who is addressing an issue that is important to them. At another moment they are raising the roof as they sing “Lean on Me.” At yet another time, they engage in the rhythms of prayer in a very reverent way.
You would have been proud of our delegation. They received high praise from the staff of the hotel at which we stayed and from other guests who were there at the time. Those favorable comments were echoed on a larger scale by the Columbus Police and the staff of Nationwide Arena. All were impressed by the behavior of the kids at NCYC.
For all of the joy of the event, it was not without its own deep sadness. A 16-year-old girl form Las Vegas was killed by a hit-and-run driver. That tragic event deeply touched all of us, as you might expect. But, thanks to some excellent conference leadership, that deeply sad event was kept in the context of the general purpose and spirit of NCYC. The young woman was never forgotten; we prayed for her at every session — private and public. But, the young people never lost their capacity to celebrate the blessings of those days.
Some 15 bishops participated in the conference. I participated in a panel on vocations to priesthood and religious life, and met with 30 participants in a wide-ranging, hour-and-a-half discussion of matters of interest to them. Both were interesting, sometimes challenging, experiences.
The personal highlight of NCYC for me was the privilege of presiding and preaching at Saturday evening’s closing liturgy. I cannot tell you what a thrill it was to speak to 20,000 gathered for the Eucharist. It is one that I shall not soon forget.
I was delighted to do that act of ministry. But, I was sorry that I had that opportunity only because our host bishop, Frederick Campbell (a native of Elmira) was unable to be present for medical reasons.
I thank our kids, youth leaders, pastors and pastoral administrators and parish communities, our diocesan staff — all who in any way made NCYC such a memorable event for so many.
As we come to the Advent season, the NCYC is a wonderful reminder to me both of God’s past favor to us all and of the incredible ways in which God renews our community — now and for the future — through the goodness of our young people.
Peace to all.Tags: NCYC