Last week, 23,000 high school students from across the United States came to Indianapolis for three days and experienced something that changed their lives. I know they left Indianapolis transformed because the event they attended was one filled with faith, power, and the Spirit.
The National Catholic Youth Conference (NCYC) is the largest Catholic youth gathering of its kind in the United States and one of the largest in the world. Twenty-six bishops and hundreds of priests, deacons, seminarians and religious brothers and sisters also attended NCYC. About 30,000 young people and adults attended the closing Mass at Lucas Oil Stadium on Nov. 19. This conference is held every two years and the Archdiocese of Indianapolis is grateful that it will be hosting NCYC again in 2013.
It’s a challenge helping young people find Christ in a secularized culture that often seems it has all but forgotten God. Nearly everything young people encounter in today’s society tells them to find their path of life in material goods and instant pleasure. How do you convince them that the fulfillment they are looking for isn’t found in the false reality of a TV show like “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” but is waiting for them by encountering the Son of God who came among us a man 2,000 years ago. Their happiness depends on developing a relationship with Jesus Christ and His Church. That’s a reality show that means something.
The theme for this year’s NCYC was “Called to Glory.” This theme challenged the teens to discover the glory of Christ by living a life of holiness and serving those around them. I’m not going to claim that all 23,000 kids were suddenly transformed into saints by attending NCYC, but I’m confident that they left Indianapolis with a better understanding of how to live the life God is calling them to live.
For three days I watched these thousands of young people attend workshops and seminars at the Convention Center, work on service projects, wait in long lines to go to confession, attend Mass, go to concerts, make new friends and just be kids. If I have any regrets about the conference it’s that more people didn’t get a chance to experience the joy and enthusiasm these young people have for their Christian Catholic faith and life in general. It strengthened my faith to be around them those three days. I left the closing Mass Saturday night feeling energized by them, their chaperones and the Spirit of God among us.
Some of the service projects these youth worked on while they were here included filling 5,000 backpacks with school supplies and personal hygiene items for children in the state’s foster care system, making clothes for children in Haiti, making fleece blankets for children in the Linus Project of Indianapolis and Catholic Charities New Albany. They also baked more than 5,000 cookies to be distributed to prison inmates.
I am filled with more hope than ever after experiencing NCYC because it confirmed what I knew. Today’s youth are not superficial or cynical. They want the answers to the questions people have been asking since the beginning of time: “Why am I here? What’s my purpose in life?” They want to know what life is really about. Isn’t that what we all want to know? And, most especially, I think they found many answers at NCYC.
If you want to learn more about NCYC and what 23,000 young people from across the United States were doing in Indianapolis last week go to these web sites: www.archindy.org or http://ncyc.nfcym.org/.