Called By Name
“For I will pour out water on the thirsty land and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out My Spirit on your offspring and My blessing on your descendants.” –Isaiah 44:3
The daily Mass readings before the Advent Season are somewhat somber as we head into this season of hope and begin preparing for the birth of Jesus. Much of the news, nationally, and locally, seems gloomy.
Do not despair! There is beautiful leadership in the Catholic Church, and it is guiding a hopeful, young generation into the future.
My husband, Dick, and I were blessed to attend the National Catholic Youth Conference in Indianapolis from Nov. 16 through Nov. 18. The theme this year was “Called.” The witness of those attending this event, which was planned by the National Federation of Youth Ministry, restored my faith in humanity. There were 25,000 young people and chaperones in attendance, 3,500 volunteers, 450 priests, 35 bishops, 50 seminarians, and 200 sisters and brothers representing 50 different communities.
The National Federation of Catholic Youth Ministry (NFCYM) is an international leadership alliance for Catholic youth ministry based in Washington, D.C. Every other year since 1983, the federation has sponsored the NCYC. The first event was a combined east coast/west coast conference held in San Francisco, Calif., and Washington, D.C., with 3,300 people attending the two conferences.
In 1991, the federation merged the regional conferences into one national conference that now attracts 20,000 youth. The event has been held in cities across the country, but Indianapolis has hosted the event six times since 1991. The Indiana Convention Center and Lucas Oil Stadium provide the perfect venue. NFCYM has contracted the event in Indianapolis through 2025. All 50 states were represented this year with groups, and 30 young people from Alaska attended with Archbishop Paul Etienne, a “Hoosier native.” Anna (Bittner) Schulten, a former intern for The Message, also traveled from Anchorage with the group. The biggest delegation was from the Archdiocese of Dubuque, Iowa, with 1,800 people.
The Diocese of Evansville participated fully in making this event successful. Matt Miller, Director of the Office of Worship, served on the local steering committee for the event, and he managed the main Sacristy for the all the sacraments and liturgies during the week. Steve Dabrowski, Diocesan Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministries, attended with a group of 79 from the diocese. Father Dave Fleck attended with the youth group from Vincennes and assisted with Reconciliation.
A unique element at the convention was called the “Thematic Village.” Hundreds of booths represented different Catholic ministries, communities, religious life, artists, music and games! Catholic Relief Services set up an area to prepare meals to send around the world. Volunteers helped bag and box more than 8,000 meals a day during the three days of NCYC.
There are many aspects of this conference that warrant praise and attention, but I will focus on my personal experience. Dick and I were part of the Clergy, Seminarian, and Reconciliation Committee. We spent three days in “Clergy Central” offering hospitality to seminarians, priests and bishops with information about their opportunities to serve at the conference. Our primary duty involved scheduling the 45 seminarians from Bishop Simon Bruté Seminary and St. Meinrad Archabbey. Prayers for vocations to the priesthood are important, and these quality young men remind me that our Church is in good hands. Their enthusiasm to serve the Church is a great witness, and the respect they have for one another as ‘brothers’ in Christ prove that God is calling them to something amazing!
Holy Mass was offered several times each day in different locations, and there was a Eucharistic Adoration Chapel set up with seating capacity for 450 people. Reconciliation was available all three days with 70 stations set up in the conference center. On Friday evening, the entire 200 level of Lucas Oil was reserved for an opportunity to receive the Sacrament of Confession.
The main celebrant for the closing Mass at Lucas Oil Stadium was Archbishop Jose Gomez of the largest diocese in the United States, Los Angeles, Calif. His homily to the young people was a message of encouragement. He asked them to become best friends with Jesus.
He said, “Talk to God and listen to where He is calling you in life. Enjoy life by living as a miracle to someone; try to be a holy saint through the grace of God. It is nothing spectacular; simply find time every day to develop a relationship with Jesus. Spend time with the Blessed Sacrament – it will change your life! And you will begin to understand how much Jesus loves you!”
Archbishop Charles C. Thompson of Indianapolis addressed the large assembly for evening prayers and again at the closing – Mass with so many ovations it was hard for him to close.
The challenges for young people today are many, but so are the opportunities to stay focused on the Grace of God, which brings real peace. In the Diocese of Evansville, the Teens Encounter Christ Movement is offering its 100th TEC Weekend on Feb. 17-19, 2018. Please check http://switec.org for information.
We are called by our baptism to be disciples. Keep soldiering, soldiers! Amen!