By Celine Klosterman
Four students from the Diocese of Davenport will join a relative handful of youths leading prayer, song and dance for up to 24,000 people at the National Catholic Youth Conference Nov. 21-23.
Charlette Flanders, Shanlie Phillips, Mason Tope and Devin Yarkosky were selected to serve as youth animators at the 2013 NCYC in Indianapolis. From July 12-14 they were among 83 animators, including eight from Iowa, who visited Marian University in Indianapolis for training.
The National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry (NFCYM) had chosen the high school students from 113 applicants who’d submitted video auditions, according to the organization. The group had sought enthusiastic young people with good public speaking skills, singing ability and rhythm.
This fall’s conference is expected to draw 21,000 to 24,000 attendees, said Maureen Gross, director of meetings and events for NFCYM.
Yarkosky, a member of St. Mary Parish in Albia, said seeing faith-filled teens at a previous NCYC made her want to become more involved in the event. “When I arrived at the animator training, it was shocking to see how nice and friendly everyone was. It was also incredible, when we all sang, how well we harmonized. There was unbelievable talent in everyone.”
Flanders recalled, “The schedule from the moment you woke up until you stepped back into your dorm room was hectic. There were endless rehearsals, but it was worth it because of the many memories that were made,” said the cantor for St. Mary of the Visitation and St. Patrick parishes in Ottumwa. “Most teens now don’t really talk about their religion, so being able to share it, be confident and not feel judged was the best feeling going into this camp.”
Prayer time during training helped the animators bond, said Tope, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Davenport and a show choir participant at Davenport Central High School. “You could feel God’s presence all the time.”
The sense of community also reminded him of a Christ in Others Retreat in which he’d participated. “When you leave, it’s sad because you feel like you became a family.”
Flanders noted that the theme for this year’s conference is “Signed. Sealed. Delivered.” She said that during training, “I was signed to spread the word of God. I was sealed with the teachings of praise through dance, song and Scripture. Now I am prepared to be delivered back to Indianapolis to hopefully change a person’s life in a positive direction.”
“Being an animator is a huge honor,” said Phillips, a member of St. Mary’s in Oxford. “I cannot wait for everyone to see all the work we did come to life in November for NCYC.”