November 29, 2019

Editorial

NCYC participants confirm ‘Christ is alive’ in young people

As we mark the long Thanksgiving holiday this weekend, many of us will gather with family to celebrate life’s blessings.

But here in central Indiana, faith, spiritual food, fellowship and fun were front and center for 20,000 teenagers, chaperones, speakers and volunteers who celebrated during the biennial National Catholic Youth Conference (NCYC) at the Indiana Convention Center and Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Nov. 21-23. And what a celebration of faith it was!

The conference’s theme was “Blessed, Broken, Given” (“Benedito, Partido, Entregado” in Spanish).

Presented by the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry and hosted by the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, the three-day pilgrimage of faith reminded young people that “Christ is Alive” in the world, the title of Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation to young people released earlier this year.

And as in years past when the gathering was held here, we came away from the weekend with great hope for our Church as we saw young people energized to embrace Christ and be beacons of light in a world where darkness has become much too prevalent.

In NCYC’s first-ever videotaped message from a pope, shown during the first night of the event, Pope Francis reminded the teens that the gathering was “an opportunity to deepen your faith and communion. May it light your missionary hearts with the courage and strength to live in and with the Lord always as a Church sent forth.”

The Holy Father implored the teens “to go out to meet each person, as it is our mission to do so, especially with those most separated and those who are suffering most. We must meet the existential peripheries of our world.

“You know from your everyday life that many are alone, that many do not know Jesus. Go, go and take the world with you. Go and fill your surroundings, even the digital ones. Not of convictions. Not to convince others. Not to proselytize. But to bear witness of the tenderness and mercy of Jesus.”

The call to go, to be sent forth and to be a missionary disciple is a message that Pope Francis has constantly delivered throughout his pontificate. And as emcee Katie Prejean McGrady said on the opening night, the pope’s exhortation to young people tells them, “we need your momentum, we need your energy, we need your insight. That’s why we’re here!”

Conference attendees were asked to bring a Bible to Indianapolis, and Prejean McGrady and co-emcee Father Agustino Torres, a Franciscan Friar of the Renewal, led the youths in a commitment to spending time with God in his word every day during NCYC.

“All of you who pledge to read the Bible every day, stay standing ... and raise your Bibles high,” said Prejean McGrady.

Besides the workshops and seminars that young people attended, prayer and the sacraments were also an integral aspect of the gathering. Masses were celebrated every day, lines to receive the sacrament of reconciliation were lengthy, and the teens showed great reverence during eucharistic adoration. Some were even moved to tears as they reflected on the great gifts our faith offers us.

Cleveland Bishop Nelson J. Perez opened the conference reminding young people that they would receive our faith’s greatest gift during the conference. “Bread will be blessed, will be broken, and will be given. No ordinary bread, though. It will be Jesus himself, who comes to nourish you, nurture you, strengthen you, heal you, save you and love you,” the bishop said.

Participants like Megan Davis, Elizabeth Eberhard and Allison Dible, all teenagers from the Diocese of Columbus, Ohio, came away from the weekend energized, inspired and eager to go home and let their faith shine.

“It’s been amazing!” said Allison, a high school senior, after the closing Mass on Nov. 23 in the Lucas Oil Stadium. “It’s just so incredible to see so many young people, all in one space, praising God. It’s just really inspiring.”

“It took my breath away. I can’t begin to explain how much love there is [here]— and such beautiful community,” noted Elizabeth, a junior, of her fellow teens.

“Now that it’s all over, I want three more days—at least,” added fellow junior Megan. “I want more. I am super excited to go home and keep my faith up and help it continue to grow. It’s going to be an adventure.”

The Nov. 21-23 celebration of faith indeed confirmed that “Christ is alive” in young people’s hearts.

—Mike Krokos

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