By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
INDIANAPOLIS — Youths pulled out their cell phones, held them aloft, swayed and sang inside Lucas Oil Stadium, creating thousands of points of light at the end of the closing Mass for the National Catholic Youth Conference.
Michelle Montgomery, director of Youth Ministry for St. Thomas More Parish in Coralville, described the Mass specifically and NCYC in general as a Spirit-filled experience. So did the 72 members of the group she led to NCYC, held Nov. 21-23. Altogether, 557 youths and 193 adults from throughout the Diocese of Davenport participated in this year’s NCYC, a faith-building and affirming gathering of 20,000 youths and adults from across the nation.
This year’s theme was Blessed. Broken. Given. “In terms of content and focus, NCYC gets better and better every year,” said Don Boucher, director of the Office of Faith Formation for the Diocese of Davenport and coordinator of Youth and Young Adult Ministry. “There were so many opportunities across the three days for young people to truly encounter Jesus in all kinds of ways — prayer, speakers and the Mass.”
“Deacon Dan Huber pointed out to me the miracle that happened at Lucas Oil Field,” said Mike Linnenbrink, who attended NCYC as part of the Davenport Diocese’s support team. “LOF was transformed into an adoration chapel instead of a football field. Around two-thousand youths took two knees on the field as they came before the Lord. Matthew 19:14 says, ‘Let the children come to me.’ What an awesome display of the young church’s hunger to have a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ.
All the kids that I asked, replied, “Adoration was their favorite part of NCYC. The kids are looking for the truth in the world in which we live, and I pray that we continue to walk with them on their faith journey.”
Linnenbrink also appreciated the presence of Bishop Thomas Zinkula, making his second trip to NCYC as Bishop of the Diocese of Davenport. “It was great to witness Bishop Zinkula’s Vision 20/20 initiative in action, with him walking with the young church.”
“You have an impression of how young people are these days, but they surprised me. They are very reverent and faith filled and excited,” said Emily Pries, the executive secretary for Bishop Zinkula. She attended NCYC as part of the diocesan support team – 22 years after she made her first NCYC in Kansas City as a youth. She met her now-husband, Jake Pries, there.
She has attended several NCYCs since then. This time, she learned some slang from kids in New York, danced the Cupid Shuffle with kids from Indiana and donned a pizza hat each night to distribute pizza to the youths. “It was awesome,” she said.
Father Guillermo Trevino led a group from St. Joseph Parish in West Liberty, where he serves as parochial vicar. “I have been to three NCYCs as a priest – 2015, 2017 and 2019 – and each included music in Spanish and readings at the general sessions. At the last two NCYCs, one of the emcees has been a Spanish-speaking priest. It is great to see someone who looks like you and talks like you do help lead such an amazing event. I told the kids, you worked hard to get here; don’t put your head down. Hold your head high!” He said his group seemed to enjoy NCYC and that the talks, adoration, confession, the Mass and the concert by For King and Country moved them.
After the concluding Mass, Montgomery gathered her group together in the hotel’s Salon 6. She told them, “I can tell that some of you are having the calling. If you have that feeling, than the Lord is talking to you and you need to let the Spirit work within you. Don’t deny it. Listen and then act on it. … It is a very special gift when the Lord touches you in that way. I’m talking to all of you here because all of us have a calling.
She told the youths to “pay attention, be astonished and then tell about it. Share it. Act upon it. When you pay attention, you will see God’s works around you. But your eyes have to be open. Your heart has to be open and the people you come in contact with will show you the image of Jesus.”
A reflection on NCYC 2019
By Sam Atchinson
For The Catholic Messenger
Coming into this (NCYC) conference, I didn’t know what to think. Too many people, strangers I didn’t know. I was in for a surprise as I had one of the best weekends I have ever had. NCYC was the best retreat I have been to with the St. Thomas More youth group.
Making our faith in God joyful and fun, with friends and people you meet, is beautiful. I was so happy that I went because I was hesitant at first. My favorite parts were the Mass on Saturday and adoration on Friday night. Both of these were amazing as 20,000 people came together to get to know (God) more through prayer and song.
With everyone having something in common, it was easy to meet new people and share about your faith. When the Mass started and the band played an amazing opening song and over 300 priests processed in, I couldn’t help but think and feel Jesus and everyone was confident that he was there.
Everyone was crying, hugging and thanking him for all he has done for how unworthy we are. Even people who usually don’t care as much for Mass were moved, and I know I was. Even though the Mass was about two hours, no one cared or wanted it to end. It hit me after the last song that we were done. It made me sad because I got to know Jesus there and also got to have so much fun.
I went to listen to a speaker at one of the breakout sessions who talked about leading more and not just going to Mass and attending youth group. This was so inspiring and helped give ideas to grow closer to (God) and to evangelize the great word of God to everyone. I also went to a speaker who talked about balancing faith and sports. This was a very good reminder for me about priorities. All the opportunities we had were amazing, and I wish I could have gone to every breakout session.
Our lead emcee and the person who ran things told us afterward that a 97-year-old World War II veteran happened to be watching the livestream during the Mass. He was found weeping and could not stop because he had the faith and assurance that our generation was going to be OK and that through God, everything was possible. This was very moving for us, and it truly gave me hope about my generation, which already has lots of things to handle.
St. Thomas More is a special place and I would have never gone to NCYC or any other retreat without it or the influence of our amazing Youth Minister Michelle Montgomery. She has been so loving, fun and hard working to help us youths get to know God. Michelle is truly a gift from God and has done so much!
(Sam Atchinson is a sophomore at Regina High School in Iowa City and a member of St. Thomas More Parish in Coralville.)