By Barb Arland-Fye
My search inside Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis for 800+ youths and adults from the Davenport Diocese appeared futile. The stadium seemed unusually empty considering a concert for the National Catholic Youth Conference (NCYC 17) would get underway in a half-hour.
A quick call to diocesan Faith Formation Director Don Boucher surfaced the problem: the teens were standing in line in the convention center across the street, waiting to get into the stadium! That’s where I should have been to interview young Catholics about their impression of NCYC 17. In an effort to get to the students on time, I’d forgotten that important detail.
“Did you say you’re in the stadium?” Don asked, incredulous that I had been allowed in before anyone else. “Your media credential must be amazing!” By phone, he walked me through the stadium’s corridor to get to the floor level, where our youths would sit for the night.
Don told me to stay put for the Matt Maher concert; I’d see the teens soon enough because doors to the stadium would open in just a few minutes. Maher, a popular Catholic musician, is a five-time Grammy nominee whose music inspires and moves me, and teens, too.
After asking permission from a nice security man, I sat down in one of the hundreds of folding chairs arranged in a circle around the stage where Maher and his band were rehearsing. “Everything’s going to be all right,” Maher sang, and I knew it would be.
Fifteen minutes later, the tsunami struck. Doors opened and teens spilled into the dimly lit stadium wearing crazy hats that looked like stuffed animal frogs, sheep, flamingos and also cheese wedges, a pizza and construction cones. Pulsating lights on their hats and around their necks gave them the appearance of human strobe lights as they made a mad dash toward the best seats in the house.
But how in the world would I find teens from the Davenport Diocese among thousands of their peers from across the country? God provided an answer in a guardian angel I will call Trevor Pullinger whose real calling is director of faith formation and youth ministry for Church of All Saints in Keokuk.
His group at NCYC totaled 14 youths and four adults (including Pullinger). Most of the group had already raced to the foot of the stage, lost in a sea of teens bopping around as DJ Bill, a Catholic entertainer, energized and connected with them.
Keokuk teens Aubry Ebeling and Julianna Riney, enjoyed the action from their seats. “I texted my grandma who pushed me to come to this,” Aubry said. “I’m so glad I came here; it’s life-changing,” she said of NCYC. Both girls said they were inspired by the motivational speakers and being in a huge stadium with “all of these people of the same faith,” Julianna added.
Across the aisle from the Keokuk group, I discovered more diocesan youths and chaperones from St. Joseph Parish in DeWitt. As I talked with some of them, Bishop Tom Zinkula strolled by with Father Guillermo Trevino, a priest of the Davenport Diocese who was wearing oversized glasses with pulsating lights. The look fit the priest, who has a good sense of fun and serves St. Mary and St. Alphonsus parishes in Davenport and St. Peter Parish, Buffalo.
I also ran into teens and chaperones from St. Thomas More Parish in Coralville and delighted in snapping photos and chatting with them before the Matt Maher concert. One of the songs Matt sang, “Come as you are,” contains some lines that seemed appropriate for me, given my wandering earlier in Lucas Oil Stadium.
“So lay down your burdens, lay down your shame
All who are broken, lift up your face
Oh wanderer come home, you’re not too far ….”
(Editor Barb Arland-Fye can be reached at email@example.com.)