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Diocesan youth attend NCYC

Catholic Globe report

More than 160 participants – 40 adults and 123 high school students - from the Diocese of Sioux City were among the thousands to attend this year’s National Catholic Youth Conference held in Indianapolis Nov. 17-19.

Sean Martin, diocesan director of youth and young adult ministry, religious education and family life, said it was incredible for 23,000 youth from all over the country to come together to worship Christ and experience their Catholic faith.

“It’s really important that teenagers see other teenagers desiring a relationship with Jesus and actively trying to pursue that,” he said.

He was impressed that so many teens opted to take part in the sacrament of confession, as witnessed by the long, constant lines and then participating in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

Martin was pleased with the quality of the speakers such as Chris Stafanek who was the recent diocesan youth rally speaker as well as chastity speakers Jason and Crystalina Evert.

“I was impressed by how many teenagers wanted to hear about chastity. They want to lead a good, pure, chaste life,” he said.

Parishes and/or Catholic school participants included: Christ the King, Sioux Center; Gehlen Catholic and the Le Mars Area Religious Education; Spalding Catholic, Granville; To Heaven’s End Youth Group of Immaculate Conception and Nativity Parishes in Sioux City, Immaculate Conception in Moville, St. Michael Church of Kingsley, Sacred Heart Spencer, St. Joseph Milford, St. Louis Royal, St. Joseph Jefferson and St. Mary Hawarden.

Jessica Konz, a student at Spalding Catholic, pointed out that each student went to different sessions during the day to listen to speakers talk about various topics.

“One speaker the group went to was called ‘Faith in a Small Town.’ This wasn’t the normal speaker where he talked and everyone listened. The speaker found different ways to get the crowd involved,” she said.

She said each day started with everybody meeting in Lucas Oil Stadium for a two to three hour prayer session.

During this prayer time, there was much singing and dancing, along with Bible readings and keynote speakers.  Each keynote speaker expressed how to connect with God.

Mark Hart, one keynote speaker, used a very inspirational saying, “You may think your sin is big, but God has a bigger kleenex.” He spoke on how some feel they can’t turn to God because their sins are too big, but we need to know that God is a very forgiving person.

At the end of the day, the assembly of the conference would meet again in the stadium for closing prayer. This was another two hours of prayer. There was more singing and dancing and Bible stories. On Saturday evening, Mass was held in the stadium.

Mackenzie Geary, a Bishop Heelan junior and member of the To Heaven’s End Youth Group, called NCYC an inspirational experience.

“It brought me closer to my faith most definitely,” she said. “It’s actually really unbelievable – a fun experience. Anyone who can should try to attend because it is really interesting.”

Geary said that seeing all of the thousands of youth worshipping together and knowing that they all had the same beliefs was really inspiring.

“You knew that God was with you. You could feel his presence,” she said.

Jenny Auchstetter, a student from Spalding Catholic in Granville, said her favorite part of NCYC was learning that you are an individual and you will not have the same thoughts, clothes, friends, interests or tastes as anyone else. People need to be themselves and to be a good person, to be who Jesus would be today.

“I really enjoyed the speakers. My favorite was Mike Patin. His presentation was called the Parable of the iPod. He compared the iPod to our personalities. He said that everybody is the same, but with different playlists,” she said.    

Sebastian Kwiedor, an exchange student from Germany who is staying with host family Bruce and Gwen Kardell in Spencer, had the chance to attend NCYC because her host mom works at the church and knew it would be one of the best things she was able to do while in the United States.

“It is pretty cool that everyone from their church helps them make money to go and it was crazy how 23,000 kids went to one place to celebrate their faith,” Kwiedor said. “I feel closer to God and understand why Catholics are such good and happy kids. Catholic kids are so lucky that their Church has so many great things for them to do.”

Another Spalding student, Dakota Hansen, said he enjoyed listening to the different speakers. His favorite was Mark Hart because of the humor and strong message.

“It was crazy to see 23,000 other young Catholics around you doing the same things you were doing. It was cool that even though everyone came from different places we could all relate through our Catholic faith,” he said.

Allison Burns, a junior at Bishop Heelan High School and a member of the To Heaven’s End Youth Group, was also impressed by seeing all of the young Catholics gathered as one.

“We went to see the Everts speak. They were really cool and I liked their talk,” she said. “That workshop really stood out for me.” The entire NCYC experience helped to reaffirm her faith.

The small group from the Le Mars Area Catholic Community Cluster made an impression with one of their trade items, fake moustaches.  Each moustache was individually bagged with a phrase like, "There's no disguising our love for God!"  They were determined to give the moustaches to at least one of the bishops at the conference and get a picture with him.  When they got to the bishop's area in the thematic park both bishops had moustaches.  So the students put on their own fake moustaches and posed for a picture with the bishops who thought the items were hilarious.

Later at the Friday night general session and prayer, Bishop Luis Zarama, vicar general and judicial vicar of the Archdiocese of Atlanta, mentioned in his address to the 23,000-plus crowd the fun trade items that were going around.  He said, "One group is even trading moustaches!" 

The three students from Le Mars were surprised to realize that this man was one of the bishops that they had posed in the picture with earlier in the day.  They were amazed that their little group of three students and two chaperones could make an impression in that large of a group. 

However, the National Catholic Youth Conference made an even bigger impression on each of the students.  One student, Josie Schipper, a ninth grader from St. James Parish in Le Mars and student at Gehlen Catholic High School said,  "It is really breathtaking to be in a stadium and have 23,000 kids of your same religion and same age pray an Our Father together.  In that moment you realize how powerful that prayer can be and you really feel connected to God in a special way and that you are connected to a much bigger church community than what you experience in your daily life."

Elli Wiemers, a chaperone from Spencer said attending NCYC with his two children was a tremendous opportunity for him to see his children with their faith in action with both their peers from the Sioux City Diocese as well as kids from across the nation.  

“It was also an opportunity for them to see my faith in action as I interacted with their peers,” said Wimers. “Participation in NCYC encourages leadership skills in our kids, and helps their confidence grow as young Christians.  I am so proud of all the kids who attended NCYC 2011.  The three of us came home with a tighter bond which we will extend to our family members who stayed home in Spencer while we traveled to Indianapolis.”  

Martin said the diocese has had a consistent group of 120 to 200 youth attend this conference. He commended the adult leaders for providing this opportunity to the youth of the diocese.

NCYC is offered every other year. In 2013 it will also be presented in Indianapolis.


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