Marilyn Trumper-Samra | Special to The Michigan Catholic
Indianapolis — An immediate and almost palpable roar rose from Lucas Oil Stadium and its 23,000 attendees when emcee Jesse Manibusan announced the National Catholic Youth Conference was trending on Twitter and that hits for live-streaming back home were closing in on 1,200.
Hash tag comments flowed. Faces lit up all around group clusters of “selfies” — self-made photos to be sent to friends. Cellphones were directed to be raised and opened to “light up the place as the light of Christ” and to create Instagram photos and videos for posting. Thousands of attendees were aglow in all sorts of LED attire, glasses, headbands, hats, wigs and jewelry, making for an energized stadium when the lights went down and the spotlights came up.
This was not your father’s youth convention.
Teens from all 50 states, including 250 from the Archdiocese of Detroit, traveled Nov. 21-23 to Indianapolis for the 32nd National Catholic Youth Conference to dance, sing, praise God, share their gifts, learn about their Catholic faith and build community.
“I could feel the love and faith from everyone,” said Bianca Seely, 14, of Our Lady of Sorrows Parish in Farmington. “My experience taught me how important it is to strengthen my faith by letting go of my possessions and holding on (instead) to the things that really matter most in life.”
The conference’s speakers and musicians reminded young people that they are loved by a God who created them to be with Him, and that sin gets in the way of that.
Joyce Francois, of the Archdiocese of Detroit’s Office for Youth Ministry, worked several months with seven young people from parishes in the city of Detroit served as “animators” on the conference’s stage: young people who between acts sang, danced, acted in skits, offered witness testimony and prayed. They also participated in key roles during the closing vigil Mass, attended by more than 350 priests and 35 bishops and led by Indianapolis Archbishop Joseph Tobin, CSSR, a former Detroiter.
“It was amazing to watch the transformation over the months. These young people truly became leaders of worship, and now know and understand they have the ability to bring people to Christ,” Francois said.
One of those Detroit young people, 16-year-old Vivian Obia from Corpus Christi Parish, said the experience will be with her for a lifetime.
“Everyone is so welcoming, and it just makes you feel really incredible seeing how I just met someone and we’re already close to each other. God has truly blessed me with the remarkable opportunities he has given me,” Obia said.
Detroit Auxiliary Bishop Donald F. Hanchon, who also attended the conference, helped the young people pack 1,100 food boxes slated for distribution for Catholic Relief Services.
“Any Catholic, let alone bishop, could think that it’s so difficult to attract and involve young people,” Bishop Hanchon said. “I was impressed with the enthusiasm of the young people, and the dedication of the adults who accompanied them,” he added, calling the spirit of the event “contagious.”
“I believe many were inspired by the presenters and workshop deliverers to try ‘best practices’ in their own parishes and dioceses. The effect of the group’s spirit was truly inspirational,” the bishop continued. “As a bishop, I volunteered to hear confessions on Friday and Saturday for several hours, and remain impressed by the energy of the participants to embrace reconciliation and a new spirit of readiness for ministry in their personal lives, parishes and youth groups.”