Youth gatherings expand geographic, age range - Catholic Courier

Youth gatherings expand geographic, age range

With a heightened focus on regional accessibility and family catechesis, diocesan youth events have a fresh look in 2012-13.

For starters, the Diocesan Catholic Youth Conference — formerly known as the Diocesan Youth Convention — is being offered in two locations for the first time. Youths may attend a one-day conference on either Saturday, Nov. 10, at Elmira Catholic Formation Center, 1010 Davis St., Elmira; or Sunday, Nov. 11, at Aquinas Institute, 1127 Dewey Ave., Rochester. Both sessions will run from noon to 9 p.m. and are open to grades 9-12. Deadline for registration is Oct. 20.

The conference’s theme is "Walk With Me: Our Local Answer to God’s Global Outcry." Catholic social teaching will be emphasized throughout each day, and organizations such as Foodlink, Catholic Family Center and Catholic Relief Services are set to be on hand. Serving as keynote speaker in both Elmira and Rochester will be Gerry Straub, a filmmaker who specializes in productions about lives of the poor around the world. (Straub will make an additional presentation Friday evening, Nov. 9, to the public at Elmira Catholic Formation Center.) Bishop Emeritus Matthew H. Clark, an avid supporter of youth ministry during his 33 years as Bishop of Rochester, is scheduled to preside at both closing Masses.

Linda Mehlenbacher, diocesan coordinator of youth ministry, said the conference’s format will contain a strong educational component, as will many other youth events in the months to come. She added that the Diocesan Catholic Youth Conference will additionally emphasize family involvement: free workshops for parents are offered at the beginning and end of both the Elmira and Rochester gatherings, and the closing liturgies are open to all participants’ families.

"That’s a huge piece," Mehlenbacher said, noting that parents often are just as much in need of catechesis as their kids: "The family is the driving force of our faith, but we’ve got generations of unchurched adults."

Having multiple locations and a one-day format also is vital, Mehlenbacher said. She expects that this year’s overall attendance will eclipse the approximately 300 youths who attended the last Diocesan Youth Convention — an overnight event that took place in August 2010 at Rochester Institute of Technology.

"It’s natural to think we can all come together in one location, but we can’t," Mehlenbacher remarked, adding that the new approach eases time constraints and gasoline costs while eliminating hotel expenses.

Geographic diversity also is built into offerings for junior-high youths in grades 6-8. This first of four regional one-day retreats is coming up Saturday, Oct. 20, at Elmira Catholic Formation Center from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. with closing liturgy at 4 p.m. Remaining junior-high retreats will be Feb. 2, 2013, at St. Mary Church, Auburn; March 2, 2013, at St. Catherine of Siena Church, Mendon; and March 16, 2013, at Church of the Assumption, Fairport. The retreats are open to grades 6-8, with a catechetical theme of "Living Catholic."

Other upcoming diocesan youth events of note are an overnight retreat for high-school students (grades 9-12) Jan. 26-27, 2013, at Camp Stella Maris in Livonia, and a Junior High Adventure Day on April 27, 2013. (Details on the adventure day were not available at press time.) In addition, four Hands of Christ ceremonies have been scheduled in early 2013: Feb. 27, St. Jude Church, Gates; March 4, St. Mary Our Mother Church, Horseheads; March 6, St. John of Rochester Church, Fairport; and March 9, St. Matthew Church, Livonia. Hands of Christ awards honor high-school seniors who have exhibited outstanding service in their church, school and community.

Looking even further ahead, Mehlenbacher added that plans have already begun for the next National Catholic Youth Conference, set for Nov. 21-23, 2013, in Indianapolis. The Rochester Diocese traditionally has the best attendance of any diocese or archdiocese in the country at this event. NCYC is held every two years; Mehlenbacher said the Diocesan Youth Conference will continue to take place during the national conference’s off years.

EDITOR’S NOTE: For flyers, registration forms and other details about upcoming youth events, contact your parish youth minister or the diocesan Office of Youth Ministry at 585-328-3210, or visit

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