By Father Bill Kneemiller
We are signed in our baptism, sealed by the Spirit in confirmation, and delivered by the death and resurrection of Christ.
Last month I had the amazing privilege of being around 23,000 “screaming” teenagers who were cheering about their faith in Jesus Christ. The way to get a sense of this conference, held at the Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, is to have the high school youth ages 14-17 speak for themselves.
Andi Sheehan of Ss. Philip & James Parish in Grand Mound wrote: “I liked NCYC because I saw how much stronger our faith can be when a large group of many different people come together. Our faith is much stronger together than when we are by ourselves.”
Katrina Scheer of St. James Parish in Toronto added that “NCYC was a lot of fun, there’s nothing like it in the world to see over 23,000 young people gathering in the name of Jesus Christ.”
Sarah Huber and Will Trasowech of Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport mentioned that “NCYC is like the Catholic Super Bowl, because we scored a lot of touchdowns for Jesus.” I asked how can you score a TD for Jesus? “Because we get the faith and we pass it on,” they exclaimed.
This aspect of the faith being strengthened and fired up intrigued me as one of the teens said their heart was “pounding for love” for Jesus. A similar thought was expressed by Abbey Heinrichs of Sacred Heart Cathedral: “At NCYC it was cool to see so many teens fired up for their faith. I feel a lot closer to God through this experience.”
Regarding the interactions of tens of thousands of teens, Connor LaPage of St. Ann Parish in Long Grove mentioned, “I got to meet a lot of new people who believe in the same thing we do, and everyone was so nice to each other.” This comment was confirmed by our bus driver for the duration who gave the teens a “10 out of 10” for their bus behavior.
Brianna Voss, also of St. Ann’s, stated that “NCYC brings together Catholic youth of America and unites as one family.” Nick Riedesel of St. Joseph Parish in DeWitt added, “I liked the welcoming experience that everyone gave. It didn’t matter where you came from, everyone became your friend. How amazing is it to have 23,000 friends!”
The conference involved main speakers and breakout sessions such as YOLO. Shane Diereckx of St Ann said his favorite session was on “Living life to the fullest and not being stupid about it.” Emily Burke of St. Joseph concluded that her favorite part of NCYC was “the closing song at Mass on Saturday evening when everyone was up on their feet singing and dancing — even the Archbishop of Indianapolis.”
One experience I wanted to mention is what a privilege it was to concelebrate Mass at the closing session on Saturday evening. One of the teens escorted me up to the third tier of the stadium for my Communion station. As I was distributing holy Communion, I had a sense of something the archbishop mentioned in his homily, that we are servants of Christ our King. What an amazing connection with the king of the universe who is hidden in the humble communion host.
My concluding comment on NCYC 2013: First, I was astounded that between the Davenport Diocese and the Dubuque Archdiocese, we had 2,100 high school students at the conference. Our faith is being renewed and strengthened by these young people and by the many other teens who are in our parish family. If we as a parish do not support youth programs, we have little hope for our Catholic future. However, I believe we are in the midst of a renewal in which we will continue to see new life, vibrancy and graces for our parishes and diocese as we continue to support young adult ministries.
(Fr. Kneemiller is pastor of parishes in Grand Mound, Lost Nation, Oxford Junction and Toronto.)