About 280 youth and chaperones in parish and school groups from across the Milwaukee Archdiocese traveled to Indianapolis, Nov. 17-19, 2011, for the biennial National Catholic Youth Conference (NCYC), according to Jim Amidei, coordinator for the Milwaukee Archdiocese.
“I really believe in this ministry,” Amidei told MyFaith of the conference where the students prayed, attended workshops, listened to keynote speakers, had opportunities for reconciliation and Eucharistic adoration, and participated in recreational activities, attended concerts, exhibitions and an interactive thematic park.
“To see 23- 25,000 other youth celebrating the Eucharist and going through and enjoying (it) and saying it’s cool to be a Catholic and (that) it’s an enjoyable thing and (where) they learn a lot…I’m excited about it,” said Amidei, member of St. Anthony on the Lake Parish in Pewaukee, who is in his fourth year as archdiocesan coordinator for NCYC.
The conference, which began in 1983, is sponsored by the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry, a nonprofit organization that serves, according to its website, “those who serve the young Catholic Church.”
This was the first year that the organization held, simultaneously, a National Catholic Collegiate Conference (NCCC) designed for 18-23-year-olds meant to “gather some of those kids who are now in college who went to NCYC as high school kids,” according to Robert McCarty, executive director of NCYC. This year also had live streaming of the general sessions, which McCarty said allowed about 28,000 people from 103 countries to watch part of NCYC through the Internet.
“It speaks volumes about the power of technology,” he said. “So, we’ve decided that NCYC (is) no longer a youth event – it’s a church event that focuses on youth and it’s actually become an international event because of the people around the world who tuned in.”
McCarty said NCYC is discussing the possibility of including a separate track for clergy and seminarians in the November 2013 NCYC, which will be held again in Indianapolis. For more information about NCYC, visit tinyurl.com/7lg4x5f.
The following reflections are written by teens from the Milwaukee Archdiocese who participated in National Catholic Youth Conference in Indianapolis, Ind., Nov. 17-19, 2011:
- I was privileged to travel with fellow parish teen members to NCYC. Even though I had gone previously it was a completely new experience for me. I got to travel with my brother, mom, cousin and friends. It was fun to share with them my religion and previous experiences. This year still continued to amaze me when all 25,000 youth came together to celebrate Christ. It makes me realize I am not going through this unknown journey alone.
I enjoyed every session I went to including: Fr. Tony, Jason and Crystalina Evert, and Doug Brummel. My favorite saying from Fr. Tony: “Don’t be stupid, and if you are STOP!” I love this because it’s straight forward and to the point. His one sentence sums up all rules. Something that also stuck out to me were our cheeseheads. I’m pretty sure more than 200 people asked to trade for my cheesehead! Someone even offered to buy it. At the end of Saturday evening I fnally traded it for a sequin cowgirl hat…. To break up one of the days my friends and I went to the game station and I got to do a relay race against my cousin. Sometimes it was simple activities that brought you closer to family and God. The grand finale that I remember the most was in the giant stadium when everyone was singing and laughing together. It will be something I will carry with me forever.
Megan Alascio, junior, Cedarburg High School
St. Joseph Parish, Grafton
- We met a lot of different people from all over the country. We were able to listen to different speakers that have talks on a variety of topics. One of my favorite talks was one of (Tony Melendez) a middle-aged man who had no arms, however he learned to play guitar with his toes. I liked his talk because he didn’t let his disability get him down. I know if I had no arms, I would be very depressed. I think that his story really relates to my life because I am a pretty decent musician. I play seven different instruments and music is a big part of my life, so if I lost my arms I couldn’t play anything and I’d be devastated. His attitude was inspirational to me because I get frustrated a lot. So when someone who has so much less than I do is that cheerful, I believe that I should be a lot more patient and kind. I think this trip was fun, even though it was a lot of sitting, because the people I talked to at NCYC were average, regular people. I hope that other people want to attend the NCYC in the future because it was an eye-opening event. Which, in my book, is pretty cool. Listening to the speakers helped me gain perspective.
Matthew Miller, junior, Beaver Dam High School
St. Katharine Drexel Parish, Beaver Dam, and St. Columbkille Parish, Elba
- The organizers did an excellent job of combining crazy fun with serious prayer. On the crazy side of things, we had a fantastic time trading the super cool items we were given to get other super cool items from different states. The trading of hats was probably the most amusing because giving your cheesehead away was a big deal! Along with that was the game of clothespin tag where you write a little note or a couple of words on a clothespin and clip it on someone else.
One specific thing that truly amazed me was the sand art meditation. I certainly did not see that coming and was completely astonished when the lights dimmed and the artist began his work. I definitely recommend this to anyone who wants to see an intense and creative way of visualizing some of the Gospels through art.
Another amazing experience was the second night we were there when we managed to score ourselves seats in the third row!! It was such a different way of viewing the emcee – ValLimar Jansen – and other speakers.
The spiritual experiences we had were just as good, if not better than the crazy ones. Praying as a whole group was beautiful and moving. Whether it was on the bus or in the huge arena, we were always praying. The sessions I attended were breathtaking. I only wish I had enough time to attend all the sessions/speakers I wanted to see.
One of my favorite spiritual experiences was going to confession. The line was huge, but fast moving and well worth it. Just walking into the room, you could see the countless number of priests that were listening to confessions; it was incredible. The most moving and amazing experience out of all was by far the Mass. It felt so strong to be having Mass with 23,000 other people who believe the same things you do. Not to mention the many, many bishops, priests, deacons, and sisters that attended the Mass. The entire arena was filled with the Holy Spirit and everyone could feel it.
I recommend this to anyone wanting to express their faith in a fun, intense and spiritual way. This trip was unbelievably important to me because it helped me to have a better understanding of my faith and my religion. It has impacted me in a way that I could never have imagined. I am constantly thinking about what I learned throughout NCYC and it has influenced the decisions I have made since.
After the trip I have thought more about things before I say them and
I also try to think about how what I say will affect others. I have tried very hard to put all this together, but the fact of the matter is that I can’t possibly say in words what I felt at NCYC. You have to go and experience it yourself to fully understand. And trust me, it’s worth it.
Katie Boehm, freshman, Grafton High School
St. Joseph Parish, Grafton