Every two years, there is a national gathering of high school age youth, known as National Catholic Youth Conference, or NCYC. Once again this year, I’m in Indianapolis for this year’s gathering. I’m told around 21,000 youth are present, including approximately 25 from Wyoming.
I missed last night’s opening session, but was present in Lucas Oil Stadium (home of the Indianapolis Colts) for this morning’s session.
There is something about these large gatherings that give our youth an experience of the larger Church. It makes it very visible, and tangible; they are not alone in their efforts to follow Christ and practice their faith.
The music is very good, and over the years, the opportunities to pray have also become very powerful. The ‘warm up’ this morning with nationally known Catholic musicians spontaneously unites these mostly total strangers into brothers and sisters in Christ. They know the music, the words, and in short order, learn the ‘moves’ to pray and celebrate their faith as the one body of Christ. It is quite inspiring!
Another inspiring component of these gatherings is that there generally are about 30 bishops who take the time to spend a day or two with our youth. Normally, during the opening Friday morning session, the bishops are paraded onto the stage and introduced to the audience. One of my own youth told our youth coordinator: “There are not many bishops present.” She was impressed that I was one who was.
That tells me something. We do not have to do much to support our youth. Just showing up, like most of life, goes a long way, and presence alone tells these young people that they are important and appreciated, and most of all that we need them, their faith, their gifts, their energy, and their joy. Christ calls each of them, and they are a vibrant part of the Church today!
There is also a catechetical component to the gathering. Throughout the two days, there are many sessions the young people can attend to learn more about the faith. The Conference Center also houses a large section filled with just about every Catholic vendor imaginable! Just about every religious community has a booth, hoping to convince young people considering religious life and priesthood to join up with them.
This morning I was particularly pleased to see the morning session promoting our faith in the Blessed Mother. After the main presenter, there was a brief Marian procession, with beautiful hymns to Mary being sung. Our youth clearly joined in, and were moved. Devotion to our Blessed Mother is so important, and it was nice to see it re-introduced to the next generation in such a respectful and tasteful fashion. Thank you NCYC!
I ask for your prayers for all of our young Church. I also ask you to prayerfully consider what you can do, in concrete ways, to accompany our young Church, and help them know they are loved. Help them find their meaningful place in the family of the Church.