For many teens, summer is a time to relax and to take a break from the books. However, for the youths at St. Leo the Great Church in Hilton, they are spending their summer vacation finding new ways to grow spiritually.
On July 17, 30 youths will attend the Steubenville Youth Conference at Franciscan University in Ohio. The conference will provide the youths with formation and information on subjects ranging from theology of the body to evangelistic outreach in the world. There also will be lively praise and worship, as well as confessions and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.
The conference has been an annual event for the youths at St. Leo. Some teens are attending the conference for their third or fourth time.
"Steubenville is a renewal of my friendship with Christ," said Alyssa Morales, a member of St. Leo’s youth group. "It is a time for me to encounter and remember the friend I have in Christ. It reminds me that Christ loves me where I am in my life and gives me the space to praise him with all that I am in this moment."
"It is the reality of Jesus," said youth-group core team member, Rene Onorato, who has attended the conference as a chaperone five times. "The power he presents is revealed. If we are open, we cannot come back the same."
Onorato believes she has "witnessed countless healings and had the privilege of watching the Lord touch both the teens and adult chaperones."
In addition to the conference, the youth group also is having a summer apologetics course on Monday evenings in July and August. The course takes place following the 5:30 p.m. daily Mass. Youth leaders are hoping the course will help the youths defend their faith during the difficult cultural times they find themselves in.
"It is my sincere hope that this will help the young people articulate what they believe with confidence, knowing that the Catholic faith is firmly rooted in sacred Scripture and the testimony of time," said Dominic Salamida II, director of Christian formation at St. Leo.
The youths also are serving their community this summer by assisting in the summer intensive faith-formation program and vacation Bible school. Movie nights for the teens, LifeTeen Masses and senior high/junior high softball also are part of the fun and increased opportunities for faith this summer at St. Leo.
"St. Leo’s youth ministry is a place to make friends in Christ," said Michele Pechie, youth minister.