Sacrament-struck teens are back from the 2013 National Catholic Youth Conference.
“When I asked them what their favorite things were from NCYC … it seemed their experience with the sacraments was their favorite part,” said Megan Noll, diocesan director of marriage, family and youth.
“It was crazy,” Noll admitted, “but they really did highlight the sacrament part. Some of them really talked about going to the sacrament of reconciliation.”
More than 20,000 people attended the Nov. 21-23 conference in Indianapolis, including three busloads — around 130 youths, parents and leaders — from the Diocese of Superior.
“The best part about it was just being in a place where you’re with 26,000 other Catholics,” said Ashley Hansen, a youth ambassador from St. Joseph, Hayward. “It was really fun. I’m so glad I went.”
For Ryan Russell, a youth ambassador from River Falls, going to confession was the best part NCYC.
“It was a really cool thing,” Russell said. “I’d kind of forgotten about how special that was.”
The sacraments starred in this year’s theme, “Signed. Sealed. Delivered.” It was a good fit for teens preparing for confirmation, Noll said.
NCYC featured workshops and general assemblies with speakers and performers, plus the Inspiration Junction Theme Park, an interactive trade show.
“One thing NCYC does a really good job of is focusing on service,” Noll said. She watched teens donate their hair for Locks of Love, saw books being collected for tornado victims and passed a group making superhero capes for a children’s hospital.
According to Noll, students were also inspired by the sessions. Presenter Bob Perron’s teenage struggles with his family encouraged one teen to address a troubled relationship with his father.
Noll felt gratified “just to see some of the walls coming down. There was a desire for forgiveness and better relationships with their own parents.”
At the chapel, youths learned novenas and prayed the rosary.
“They had different prayer experiences there,” Noll added. “One of the girls from Rice Lake mentioned that was a highlight for her.”
Four diocesan teens volunteered to take on leadership roles as youth ambassadors. Hansen, a high school senior who was attending NCYC for the second time, said the role was “eye-opening.”
Despite throngs of people, Hansen found she wasn’t nervous speaking in public. Topics that appealed to her most included pilgrimage — the journey that leads to personal change — and stress management.
Russell liked the session on pilgrimage too, but for a different reason. The presenting priest was deaf, and “he didn’t let his disability get the in the way.”
Hansen also enjoyed NCYC’s strong emphasis on multiculturalism. Her mother is Latina, and she’s bilingual.
“A lot of the songs were sung in Spanish and English,” she said. “I just thought it was amazing, how they were kind of combining all the cultures.”
At a session on empowering black Catholic youth, Russell learned a lot about Catholicism and African-American culture.
“It ended up being a really cool cultural experience,” he said.
“I think it captured a bigger perspective on Catholicism,” Noll added.
Noll was impressed by how many teens committed to attending the conference during the opening week of the gun deer hunt. She enjoyed the overall feeling of community, the closeness of the diocesan family.
As a present to Bishop Peter Christensen, they sent a group photo with a note, “This is your family.”
“The family is a church, but to look at it from an even bigger perspective … we’re all sons and daughters of God,” she said.
For more information on NCYC go to http://ncyc.nfcym.org/