By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — “Are you in slo-mo this morning?” worship leader Alicia Brock asked attendees on the second day of the Diocesan Catholic Youth Conference at St. Ambrose University. “Oh, you gotta stand! You gotta be awake for this one!”
The 185 high school students responded by dancing and shouting the words to “Trading My Sorrows,” as if to show the worship leader that their energy and passion for God were getting stronger as the weekend went along.
The two-day, overnight conference was the first of its kind for the Diocese of Davenport. In previous years the diocese hosted a one-day Diocesan Youth Rally. All together 225 youths and adults participated in this year’s conference, which had as its theme: Heaven, the Unexpected Journey.
Don Boucher, diocesan coordinator of young adult and youth ministry, said the extra time gave organizers an opportunity to help students dive further into faith and contemplation. They experienced more keynote speeches, a variety of seminars on topics of their choosing and participated in small discussion groups.
Doug Tooke of Montana, founder of Monarch Ministries and Youth Ministry coordinator for the Diocese of Helena, served as keynote speaker. He covered topics including how to make service a part of faith and how to battle sin the way David battled Goliath. “As a young person (you can) fearlessly walk through the battle and fight Goliath,” he said in a speech Nov. 23.
“He was the best speaker ever,” said Cici Dugas of St. Mary Parish in Grinnell. “He kept you focused and entertained but also got his message across. He let us know that we have to go and carry out our faith”
Tooke, diocesan laypersons and priests taught the break-out sessions, covering topics from social media to music to how to defend the Catholic faith. Sloan Volkman of St. Mary Parish in Grinnell said he liked the many choices offered; he most enjoyed the sessions on keeping the faith after high school and understanding and respecting the opposite sex.
In addition to educational sessions, the students from 30 parishes in the diocese experienced Mass with Bishop Martin Amos in Christ the King Chapel on campus. In his homily, the bishop observed that the conference’s theme could have been Heaven, the Expected Journey. “We should expect it. In fact, we are on that journey already through our baptism. And there is a destination — heaven. … If we keep that in mind and live out our faith we will hear the words, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the earth.’”
The students also participated in holy hour and the sacrament of reconciliation. Boucher said the holy hour was a highlight for many students he talked to. Logan Davis of St. Mary Parish in Oxford has been to the one-day youth rallies in the past and said he liked the weekend format and the opportunity for deeper contemplation. “I enjoyed sitting in the chapel and just thinking in silence during holy hour.” He said he felt a deeper sense of spirituality as a result of the weekend conference.
Students also took part in a mass packaging of food for Kids Against Hunger. In little less than an hour, students packaged 12,000 meals to be given to families in impoverished countries and those battling Ebola in West Africa, said Pam Gettert, board president of Kids Against Hunger. A cardboard cutout of Pope Francis got in on the action, as teens gave him a hair net and apron to “wear” as they worked.
While attendance was down from previous years — something Boucher anticipated due to the weekend commitment – the extra day was an added incentive for some from the western part of the diocese. Peyton Moore of St. Mary’s in Centerville – the farthest parish from Davenport – traveled four hours to attend and said he enjoyed the extra time to participate in activities and meet new people.
Boucher said the event went better than he could have hoped and that he received positive reactions from students and youth directors. “I overheard one kid say, ‘The only reason I’m here is because my parents made me come, and I’m really glad I did.’ When you get that kind of feedback you know it is working,” he said.
Awards were presented to youths and youth leaders at the Diocesan Catholic Youth Conference Nov. 23.
Recipients of the St. Timothy Award for youths are Alex Gudenkauf of St. Thomas More Parish in Coralville and Grace Edwards of St. James Parish in Washington
Recipients of the St. Don Bosco Companion on the Journey Award for adults are Brenda Bertram of Jesus Christ, Prince of Peace Parish in Clinton and Mike Linnenbrink, director of youth ministry for parishes in Houghton, St. Paul, Farmington, West Point and Fort Madison.