By Celine Klosterman
At the most recent National Catholic Youth Conference in 2009, Patilyn Lowery loved how the youth animators — who helped lead prayer, song and movement at the event — inspired her and some 21,000 other Catholics who attended.
This year, the 17-year-old member of St. John Vianney Parish in Bettendorf and two other youths in the Diocese of Davenport will work to similarly inspire their peers as youth animators at NCYC. Also, seven students in the diocese will serve at the event as youth ambassadors who introduce speakers, lead prayer and help with seating, hospitality and directions.
The 10 youths are among 700 Catholic teens in southeast Iowa who plan to join 23,000 other pilgrims at NCYC Nov. 17-19 in Indianapolis. The biennial conference is designed to offer education and spiritual growth through keynote presentations, workshops, Mass, prayer, worship, entertainment and fellowship.
“I hope to get everyone excited and participating,” said Cameron Fox, 18, a member of Our Lady of Victory Parish in Davenport who will be a youth animator. He said NCYC in 2009 energized his faith and motivated him to get more involved in youth activities at the parish and diocesan level, and he’d like other teens to have the same experience.
He, Lowery and Hannah Hartz of St. Mary Parish in Grinnell each auditioned by video and supplied an application and recommendation for the position of youth animator. The 83 students who were selected nationwide later spent a weekend in July training in Indianapolis at Lucas Oil Stadium, where NCYC will take place, and have been practicing songs and movements with the help of CDs and online videos.
Hartz, a 16-year-old who has been taking dance lessons since age 3, saw the opening for youth animators as the perfect opportunity to share her passion. At NCYC in 2009, “Seeing those people onstage leading prayer and song for thousands of teens was really cool.”
Students who will be ambassadors also hope to energize their peers. “My goal is to inspire youths to go back to their communities and do service or get involved in youth ministry,” said Nate Howard, 16, a member of Ss. Mary & Mathias Parish in Muscatine. He, Brenna Bormann of St. Mary Parish in Oxford, Jessica Brimeyer of St. Mary Parish in Solon, Maria Finan of St. Anthony Parish in Knoxville, Corri Goldsmith of St. Thomas More Parish in Coralville, Tony Nimtz of St. Mary Parish in Oskaloosa and Jasmin Tone of St. Alphonsus Parish in Mount Pleasant will be among 150 youth and adult ambassadors at NCYC.
Ambassadors, chosen by their diocese, participate in online training before NCYC and take part in an orientation session at the conference.
For Finan, 17, being an ambassador offers an opportunity to channel energy for and love of Catholicism into a visible leadership role at NCYC. “Not only are the ambassadors stewards of NCYC, we are also stewards of God, and it’s exciting to be able to share our love of Christ with 20,000 kids like us,” she said. “I hope that those who see us will appreciate our passion for our faith, and realize that we are just like them.”
Similarly, Tone, 17, said she’s looking forward to growing in her faith and connecting with other youths. “I love to act, so this is another reason for me to get in front of people.”
Nimtz, 15, was planning to attend NCYC for the first time when he responded to a call for ambassadors at the diocese’s youth rally in October. “Everyone’s been saying NCYC is very fun, so I wanted to try it from the standpoint of an ambassador,” he said.
At NCYC in 2009, Goldsmith, now 17, felt like “one of a million people. I wanted to be more a part of it.” So she agreed to be an ambassador for this year’s event. “I’m really excited to meet everybody, especially the workshop leaders. Last time, I didn’t really get to know them individually because there were so many of us.”
Pat Finan, diocesan coordinator of youth and young adult ministry, said he’s impressed by the animators and ambassadors from southeast Iowa. “These are young people with great God-given gifts and the confidence to use them in ways to make NCYC a great experience. It will be a thrill to see these 10 help lead the way in Indy.”