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home : opinion : perspectives

12/7/2017 9:00:00 AM
National Catholic Youth Conference: an experience I will never forget

On Nov. 16-18, I attended the National Catholic Youth Conference (NCYC) in Indianapolis, Ind. This conference meets every other year and invites high school Catholics from around the United States to participate.

My parish, Our Lady of the Assumption in Latham, was lucky enough to be able to bring 16 teens as well as five adults across the country to expand our faith together. After nine months of planning, 21 homemade t-shirts and a lot of fundraising pancake breakfasts, we made it to Indianapolis.

On the first day of NCYC, I was unsure of what to expect. The loud boom of music and the sight of anxious kids running through the Lucas Oil Stadium assured me that I was truly in for something special.

Throughout my trip, I got to listen to nationally-known speakers such as Chris Stefanick; Sister Miriam James Heidland, SOLT; Bishop Frank Caggiano of Bridgeport, Conn.; and many more. These incredible speakers told stories about how God was with them throughout all the trials of their lives, even though, in the moment, they could not see it for themselves.

We also got to hear stories about those who battled issues with family, health, drugs or self-image. Stories such as Chris Stefanick's were a message to everyone that, even though it may seem like everything is going wrong, God can always turn your life around for the better.

One speaker was a man who was once severely overweight and poor. A teenage girl whose father was held captive because of his religion told her story. Through their faith, both were saved by the Lord, and they now lead a life continuing to follow His Word.

One of my favorite parts about NCYC was meeting new people, who were all very friendly. I enjoyed talking to people from all around the country while waiting in the extremely long line for the elevator or even while trading pins in the convention center.

I met some very kind girls from Texas who shared their personal story about how the recent hurricanes have affected their lives. It's was really amazing to talk to other kids my age that aren't from New York and to hear about how their lives differ from mine.

I met a girl from Alabama while waiting in line for lunch. She turned to me and wondered aloud, "How are y'all so tan if you're from New York?" Now, that I will never ever forget!

On the last day of NCYC, a Mass was held in Lucas Oil Stadium. All 25,000 of the participants who attended the conference sat in the stadium for one last gathering. Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles celebrated the wonderful Mass.

It was truly amazing to see each person in the stadium receive communion by one of the dozens of priests in attendance. The Mass ended with everyone in the stadium singing together to praise Jesus.

NCYC was a one-of-a-kind, unforgettable, amazing trip. I got to experience so many things that this conference had to offer. From listening to a priest rap, to nuns telling jokes, to the complete silence during eucharistic adoration, I will cherish every moment. I cannot thank my parish enough for their generous donations and prayers for all 21 of us to make this trip possible. I'll always remember the loud echo that filled Lucas Oil Stadium after 25,000 people said, "Amen."

I will carry all the messages and lessons I received on this trip with me throughout my life and, for that, I am forever grateful. One of my personal favorite speakers, Rev. Leo Patalinghug, is a priest and cook who founded a ministry called "Grace Before Meals" to bring people back to sharing meals together. He left me with this important message that I will never forget: "When we carry our cross, well, even the painful things in life become joyful."

(Read a previous story about NCYC at www.evangelist.org.)

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