GATES — For reasons beyond their control, a trip to Indiana this year wasn’t in the cards. Even so, teens from the Diocese of Rochester felt the spirit of the National Catholic Youth Conference thanks to a number of local initiatives.
More than 100 youths from around the diocese, including many from Southern Tier parishes, came together for a special diocesan gathering Nov. 14 at Parish of the Holy Family near Rochester. The afternoon featured fun and spiritual activities — modeled after NCYC events — that were set up at stations in the parish center.
“There were some really good stations for us to do,” said Marina Caito, 17, from Holy Family Catholic Community in Steuben and Livingston counties, noting that she especially liked the ones on social justice and leadership.
Other stations featured team-building activities; art projects; discernment about making the right decisions, priorities and judgments; weighing the positive virtues that are most needed by the world today; and a table with religious items, prayer cards and information on vocations. In addition, opportunities were offered for eucharistic adoration and confession. Participants attended Parish of the Holy Family’s 5 p.m. Sunday Mass to conclude the day.
The busy itinerary on Nov. 14 served as a lead-in for the 2021 NCYC that took place in Indianapolis Nov. 18-20. On the latter weekend, many parishes staged activities to coincide with the conference, including livestream transmission of sessions and keynote speakers from Indianapolis. For instance, at St. Matthew Church in Livonia Nov. 20, an all-day event also included two service projects; Jesse Cruz, an author and motivational speaker; a journaling workshop; live folk-group music; prayer opportunities; and a mini-thematic park — also patterned after an NCYC initiative — in the church’s community room. Teens attending the Nov. 20 event came from the cluster of St. Matthew and St. Mary in Honeoye as well as Holy Family Catholic Community; the cluster of St. Agnes, Avon; St. Rose, Lima; and St. Paul of the Cross, Honeoye Falls; and St. Martin de Porres Parish in Caledonia, Churchville and Scottsville.
Jeanette Housecamp, who serves as faith-formation and youth-ministry director for St. Mary/St. Matthew, said her goal for Nov. 20 was to create a day “that gives the youth an opportunity to feel like they belong, and they are a vital part of our church.” She added that the hard work of parish adults, many of them volunteers, made possible the gatherings at both St. Matthew Church and Parish of the Holy Family.
NCYC is organized every two years by the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry. Although the event in Indianapolis ended up going forward, it did so with capacity limited to 12,000 participants — slightly more than half the conference’s usual amount — because of health concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic. The Diocese of Rochester, which has traditionally sent some of the country’s largest contingents to the NCYC, made the difficult decision in March 2021 not to take part in person.
Owen Cirillo, 15, from St. Matthew in Livonia, who had hoped to travel to Indianapolis, said he “was bummed, sort of” upon hearing that his parish and diocese would instead be staying home. But he remarked Nov. 14 that the alternative event at Parish of the Holy Family was fun “so I can’t get too mad.”
“It’s impressive what they were able to do. This was well-planned and organized,” Owen added.
“They did a really good job,” agreed Marina, who noted that she attended the 2019 NCYC, also held in Indianapolis.
Christopher Polland, 15, from St. Agnes Parish, added Nov. 14 that he appreciated the effort made by diocesan and parish leaders to provide a sense of the NCYC experience without actually being there.
“It’s definitely a good thing, so people can get together and have some fun,” Christopher said.