November 16, 2017

Teens, parents from diocese attend National Catholic Youth Conference

Staff report

Teens from St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Belchertown will attend the National Catholic Youth Conference in Indianapolis, Ind., Nov 16-19. (IObserve photo/courtesy of St. Francis of Assisi Parish)

SPRINGFIELD – Fifty-two teenagers and adult chaperones headed to Indianapolis Wednesday, Nov. 15 to attend the National Catholic Youth Conference (NCYC). The biannual conference is being held at the Indianapolis Convention Center Nov. 16-19. The schedule includes prayer, community and empowerment with inspiring speakers taking on topics ranging from forgiveness, to global issues to sexuality to Catholic spirituality.

“I have been to many NCYC’s over the years and have seen the fruits of youth participating in them as they grow in their faith and become more active in their parishes. Conferences such as NCYC help young people see the church as wider than their local parish,” said Gina Czerwinski, director of catechetics and youth formation for the Diocese of Springfield. More than 25,000 people are expected to attend the conference, which has daily Mass, opportunities for the sacrament of reconciliation, concerts and exhibits for attendees.

Among the local parishes participating are St. Francis of Assisi in Belchertown; St. Elizabeth of Hungary in North Adams; St. Elizabeth Parish in Ludlow; and Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish in Springfield.

Even though the students attending will miss a few days of school and have to play catch up when they return, those on the trip said they’re excited to be with thousands of others who share their faith.

“I thought it would be really cool because going to a public high school you don’t come from an environment where everyone has the same beliefs. I want to know there are other teenagers out there doing the same thing as me,” said Rebecca Patel, a freshman at Belchertown High School and member of St. Francis of Assisi Parish.

“I really want to strengthen my faith and seeing 30,000 other people with the same mission is empowering to me,” said Jordan Healy, a member of St. Francis of Assisi Parish.

Czerwinski said the conference is an opportunity for youth and adults to bring home new ideas in order to minister to young people.

“They get to meet and interact with other Catholic young people from around the country and have the opportunity to learn about their faith in new and dynamic ways through the various keynotes and breakout sessions, thematic village, prayer experiences, and celebration of the sacraments of reconciliation and the Eucharist,” said Czerwinski.

Among the featured artists are Matt Maher, who wrote “Your Grace is Enough” and “Lord I Need You,” and Grammy winning Christian hip hop artist Toby Mac. Participants have an opportunity to help with service projects, make rosaries, pray the rosary, as well as attend the many break-out sessions led by dynamic Catholic speakers such as John Leonetti and Jason and Crystalina Evert.

In recent weeks, the diocese and the U.S. Catholic bishops have put the focus on the family, with a goal of bringing young people and their parents back to church. Czerwinski said youth ministry is a critical component.

 “Key for parishes is to be more intentional about how they are inviting young people and families to be involved in the life of the parish. Simple things like really reaching out and inviting young people to become involved in parish life through the various ministries goes a long way too,” she said.

“Beyond that, young people do benefit from having specific activities geared for them at their parish, or even combined with a neighboring parish. And yes, that can be as simple as having a game night with pizza or working with your parish young people to lead an activity in the parish like a youth-led Stations of the Cross.” 

The National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry sponsors the event.