“Here I am Lord” National Catholic Youth conference 2015

Categories: Around the Diocese

Youth and chaperones from Becker/Big Lake, Minn. pray over featured speaker Chris Padgett during the Friday morning, Nov. 20 session at ‪#‎ncyc2015‬ The morning focused on devotion to Mary and Padgett talked about Mary being the first to say "Here I Am Lord," the theme of this year's conference. Photo by Dianne Towalski / The Visitor

Youth and chaperones from Mary of the Visitation Parish in Becker/Big Lake join in a prayer over speaker Chris Padgett.

NCYC – National Catholic Youth conference

Story and photos by Dianne Towalski
The Visitor

Youth and adult leaders from across the country converged on Indianapolis Nov. 19-21 for the 33rd National Catholic Youth Conference. The theme was “Here I am Lord.”

The St. Cloud group, 141 youth and 55 adult leaders, joined the crowd of more than 23,000 gathered at the Indiana Convention Center and Lucas Oil Stadium — home of the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts — to listen to speakers, experience adoration, attend workshops, visit with organizations in the exhibit hall and spend time with other young Catholics.

“In a time when the media seems filled with only bad news, gathered here are 23,000 stories of good news — signs of God’s presence — young people and young adults committed to being disciples of Jesus and to being people of the Gospel,” said Bob McCarty, executive director of the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry.

Madeline Kapinos and Jacenta Kresky take a selfie with Bishop Donald Kettler after the group from the St. Cloud Diocese had lunch with him at the Hard Rock Cafe Nov. 19. The  141 youth and 55 adult leaders from the diocese were among the 24,000 people attending The National Catholic Youth Conference in Indianapolis. Photo by Dianne Towalski / The Visitor

Bishop Kettler posed for a “selfie” with Madeline Kapinos and Jacenta Kresky, members of the youth group at Sacred Heart Parish in Sauk Rapids, after lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe in Indianapolis Nov. 19.

Bishop Donald Kettler attended the conference and met up with the St. Cloud group for lunch Nov. 19 at the Hard Rock Cafe in Indianapolis. He visited with youth and even posed for a few “selfies.”

Bishop Kettler has attended several NCYC conferences and this time also facilitated a session on Pope Francis’ recent encyclical, “Laudato Si’” (see sidebar, page 14A).

“When I see what happens to the young people here, the enthusiasm, I just feel that I have got to be here,” he said. “It’s not that I’m here to show them something — they’re here to show me something.”

For the youth and adults attending the conference, the enthusiasm was contagious.

“When I get back to St. Cloud, I’m definitely going to encourage the youth and young adults to attend [this conference]. This trip has brought me closer to my faith and closer to God,” said Adam Heim, who attended the event with the youth group from Sacred Heart, Sauk Rapids. “It has helped me open up my heart even more to God. I feel like I’m coming home a new person.”

The three-day conference featured morning and evening main sessions focusing on the theme, as well as hundreds of workshops on a wide variety of topics.

Father Leo Patalinghug, host of Grace Before Meals, was the presenter for the opening session on Nov. 19. He talked about how the Sign of the Cross is a powerful prayer that says, “Here I am Lord.”

Father Patalinghug also spoke about his background as a chef, an award-winning choreographer and a third-degree black belt martial arts instructor, impressing the crowd with his board-breaking skills.

Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga, Archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras celebrates the closing Mass for the 24,000 youth and adult leaders attending the National Catholic Youth at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana Nov. 21. Photo by Dianne Towalski / The Visitor

Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, was the principal celebrant at the closing Mass.

His story had an impact on Cassie Leineman, a member of the Becker/Big Lake group. “It gives you faith to believe that you can grow in your faith even if you’re not at a strong point in your life,” she said.

The Friday morning session focused on devotion to Mary and included a short Marian procession. Featured speaker Chris Padgett talked about Mary as the first to say, “Here I am Lord.” He encouraged the youth to reflect on how they could follow her example and respond to God’s call in their own lives.

Carolyn Woo, president and CEO of Catholic Relief Services, spoke during the Saturday morning session. She shared her personal faith journey and talked about the work of CRS. “Our role is not just to serve the poor,” she said. “It is to take them out of poverty, because it is only out of poverty that people have the dignity they need to develop to their full potential.”

XLT, a format for eucharistic adoration that includes praise and worship music, catechesis, prayer and silence, was the focus of the Friday evening main session and featured music by Catholic recording artist Matt Maher.

For some participants it was their first time experiencing adoration in that way, and many were visibly moved by the experience.

“That was really what touched me, just that power of God, the side of God that is just pure love, pure sacrifice, and is the one who’s looking at you, saying, ‘You’re priceless. I will always want you. I will never forsake you. I will never fail you,’” said Anna Rydberg, a member of the Spirit and Saints youth group in St. Cloud. “Just that amazingness of God is what really touched me tonight.”

Father Gabriel Walz, who brought youth from his parishes in Braham, Isanti and Cambridge, says it’s that encounter with Jesus that makes events like NCYC important.

“The focus of an event like this is to put the attention on the encounter of the young person with the Lord Jesus Christ,” he said. “We need to have had that encounter with our Lord Jesus Christ if we’re going to be living out our mission to mediate the encounter with Jesus Christ to other people. We can’t lead people to somewhere we’ve never been. If I’ve never encountered the Lord, how can I live joyfully the Gospel message?”