NCYC experience was a joy - Catholic Courier
Matthew H. Clark Matthew H. Clark

NCYC experience was a joy

The Nov. 17-19 National Catholic Youth Conference was a joy, as always. Our host this year was the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, Ind. More than 1,000 volunteers from that local church were generous and warm in their hospitality. Their kindness contributed much to the enjoyment of the 22,000 teens from all over the United States and to our delegation of 600.

Our kids were just great, as were our diocesan and parish leaders and the many adult volunteers who worked very hard to ensure that our young people had a safe, happy and rewarding time at the conference. From all that I heard and observed the teens did have a great experience. There was no serious illness and no injury. A group from St. Matthew, Livonia, had an unplanned collision with a 10-point buck 100 miles east of Indianapolis. Thank God no one was injured, and their rental van was quickly replaced by the company from which they rented it.

Since arriving home from NCYC and our earlier USCCB meeting in Baltimore, I have been trying to catch up. It’s only as I sit to write the evening of Nov. 21 that I’ve had a chance to think about the experience, to savor some of the memories of those happy days. Those memories include:

1) Meeting with our group on Thursday evening. Upon arrival from Baltimore I was to preside at Eucharist with our delegation at St. Luke’s Church. Because of a frustrating travel delay I did not arrive until Mass was over and the group was ready to leave for the Lucas Oil Stadium for the grand opening of the NCYC.

The frustration and tension of the day soon melted away. How could anyone not snap out of his or her funk in the presence of 600 kids — who were having such a great time and who were so warm in their welcome.

I am grateful to Alice Miller Nation who coordinated the liturgy, and to Father Alexander Bradshaw who presided in my place. Aware of the situation, they managed to slow the pace of events so that I could greet everyone. I understand that Alexander took more time to cleanse the vessels used at liturgy than anyone in the history of the church.

Most of all, I thank our young people for the gift of their kindness and support.

2) Our experience of Lectio Divina. The outstanding master of ceremonies of the NCYC was ValLimar Jansen, an African-American woman from California.

On Friday evening she led 22,000 young people in an experience of a slow, meditative prayer focused on the story of the Annunciation. At the appropriate time she carefully and respectfully explained why silence was an important element of that form of prayer. She invited the assembly to refrain from all electronic communication. She reminded them that this kind of silence means more than just not speaking. It means calming the body and the spirit so that one can be totally attentive to the Lord.

I can’t tell you how moving it was to be in their company as the young people honored her request. They were completely still, supporting one another that all might enter unimpeded into the experience. My guess, and certainly my hope, is that those graced moments will encourage them to explore that form of prayer more fully in the days ahead.

3) The bishop trading cards. Kids at NCYC love to trade T-shirts, buttons and badges. To build on that activity and to foster conversations between the young people and their bishops, the organizers printed their own version of baseball trading cards featuring pictures of bishops who were at NCYC. Each teen received a number of cards when they arrived, and were encouraged to get autographs from the bishops pictured on their cards. They could also trade them.

It was a delightful experience to meet young people in that way, especially when I could sense that without the card the young person might have been shy to start a conversation. I wouldn’t be surprised if at future gatherings organizers plan a similar opportunity.

As I indicated in an earlier column, our ad limina visit to Rome began Nov. 22. Be assured of my prayers for all at home while we’re in the Eternal City.

Peace to all.

Tags: NCYC
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