The lights may have faded out on the National Catholic Youth Conference, but Audi Hamilton plans to keep spreading the spiritual glow she acquired over a three-day period in Kansas City, Mo.
"This NCYC became so much more than just expressing our faith or being surrounded by God’s love. It became how the real world should be, with Christ’s love and commitment flowing through every person there," she stated.
Audi, 16, was among a large contingent from Tioga County’s Blessed Trinity/St. Patrick parishes to attend the conference held Nov. 19-21. This colossal celebration of faith drew more than 20,000 participants in all. A sizable portion came from the Rochester Diocese, which sent 632 conventioneers — two-thirds young people, and the rest adult chaperones and officials including Bishop Matthew H. Clark. Rochester has traditionally made up the highest participation level of any diocese or archdiocese in the country.
The NCYC, held every two years, is the largest Catholic youth gathering in the United States. Events over the three-day period included general sessions, workshops, reconciliation, daily liturgy and concerts. Thanks to technological advances, folks who didn’t make it to Kansas City could still share in the NCYC hoopla, as general sessions were posted via streaming video on the NCYC Web site.
Social networkers also kept folks in the loop on NCYC goings-on. For instance, Deacon John Brasley — who traveled with the Cathedral Community youth group from Rochester — sent the following Twitter message on Nov. 20 describing a procession of the Blessed Sacrament from the Sprint Center to the Kansas City Convention Center: "21,000 people lined the streets in Kansas City, MO for the NCYC 2009 Adoration procession — coolest thing ever."
And Jeanne Pavlina, youth-ministry and faith-formation coordinator for Schuyler Catholic Community, offered this Facebook post on Nov. 21: "An inspiring 3 days! The young church is certainly alive, giving me hope for the future. 21,000-plus heading home from NCYC in KC ready to spread the kingdom and the message that Christ reigns!"
Many Twitter posts gave thumbs-up to the closing Mass on Nov. 21; others commented positively on such workshops as a stirring presentation on chastity by the husband-and-wife team of Jason and Crystalina Evert earlier that week. Additional Twitter messages conveyed homesickness as well as the need to get caught up on sleep: "Hello bed. Where have you been all my NCYC?" one Twitterer remarked.
Rest and relaxation took a back seat while teens celebrated their faith together — the culmination of many months of planning and fundraising for their big journey. St. Agnes Parish in Avon and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Hamlin, for example, each had conducted "stock offerings" so parishioners could "invest" in their youths’ NCYC travels. Meanwhile, youth-group members at Irondequoit’s Christ the King Parish had collected playground balls, soccer balls, Nerf footballs and jump ropes to donate to an inner-city school in Kansas City as part of an NCYC service project.
Audi felt this year’s conference exceeded her expectations, even though she had somewhat of an idea of what to expect since she also attended the 2007 NCYC in Columbus, Ohio. (The next conference is planned for November 2011 in Indianapolis.)
"Explaining NCYC is impossible in words. It’s just too … great," Audi said.
Teens across the Rochester Diocese will share their NCYC experiences at parishes in upcoming weeks through such vehicles as bulletin articles and pulpit presentations. On the other hand, Audi and her friends from Blessed Trinity/St. Patrick opted not to wait that long, spreading the good news at the airport in Chicago on the way home.
"We were sitting on the floor, smiling and waving, playing Christian rock music and telling people to have a good day. I had a feeling of disappointment as some people only continued on their way, or gave us shifty glances. Were they scared or confused that three teenagers were defying the stereotypical image of teens?" Audi remarked. "The realization that most of the world didn’t know what happened (at NCYC), those days filled with love and faith, made me want to spread God’s love even more."