This past weekend we gathered at the Crown Plaza Hotel in Rochester for
our annual Diocesan Youth Convention. I just finished sending an e-mail
message to Michael Theisen, director of youth ministry, and all of his
co-workers, expressing my gratitude for a job well done.
Over 600 young people from every part of our diocese turned out for
the event. From my perspective, the enormous amount of work by the
young people and adults who planned and supervised the event paid great
dividends. I say that primarily because participants were beautifully
responsive to all that was asked of them during our time together. When
it was time to play, they did so in joyful ways. When it was time to
pray, they took up the invitation with peaceful ease. They shared with
others about matters that are important to them. They were attentive to
their sisters and brothers when they offered similar gifts. I had a
deep sense that they wanted to learn new things, to absorb the
experience of others and grow through it all.
This was the 10th Diocesan Youth Convention we have celebrated under
the present format. In special observance of the anniversary, we
invited to this convention everyone who had served as teenagers on the
Diocesan Youth Committee over the past 10 years and who, therefore, had
worked on earlier conventions as part of their leadership
responsibilities. During the Sunday liturgy we called them forward
according to their years of service, starting with 1994 and continuing
to the present.
I noticed that the teenage participants were very attentive as these
early leaders came forward, and that when the assembly offered them
their applause, they did so with great enthusiasm. There was present
among this year’s convention participants a sense of gratitude for what
these young adults had prepared and passed on to them.
I have often read that special religious experience like retreats,
days of prayer and such gatherings as this weekend’s convention have
lasting significance in the lives of young people. What I have read has
been validated in many conversations I have had over the years with
adults who speak to me about the formative influence youth gatherings
had in their lives. They speak to me of lasting friendships made or
deepened; a sense of solidarity with peers about important convictions
and values; an appreciation of our faith community complementing their
experience of parish; new and sustaining ways of prayer experienced; a
clearer sense of their dignity and goodness; and assistance in coping
with societal and cultural forces that can be destructive.
Time and circumstances did not allow it on Sunday, but I would have
loved the opportunity to sit with our returning leaders and hear them
respond to questions such as these:
Why did you choose to come back for this event?
How would you describe your experience as participant/leader in our
In what ways, if any, does that past experience remain important to
If you could have had 10 minutes to address this convention, what
would you have said to the kids?
Based on your life experience since high school, what changes would
you suggest to improve our programs with and for today’s teens?
It’s too late for me to ask these questions of those men and women
who led our convention in earlier years. But perhaps those involved
with young people who attended this week’s gathering could suitably
adapt the questions and ask for their feedback to them.
I close by thanking all who support such activities for our young
people. We all know that these gatherings could not happen without you.
We are also aware that we never waste a penny or a moment that we
invest in support of our precious young people.
Peace to all.