By Noah Goodson
More than 23,000 youth from around the country, including the Diocese of Knoxville, journeyed to Indianapolis to experience the National Catholic Youth Conference.
Held at Lucas Oil Stadium, NCYC is a biennial event intended to help Catholic youth develop a more powerful faith. It was held Nov. 19-21.
The opening NCYC session featured keynote speaker Father Leo Patalinghug, a Filipino priest widely known for his ministry that blends cooking with Catholic teaching. Father Patalinghug is the founder, host, and director of Grace Before Meals, an apostolate to strengthen families through sharing meals. He also is a host on EWTN’s show Savoring Our Faith, and the co-host of the Sirius XM Radio show Entertaining Truth. Father Leo has been featured on the television networks ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS, EWTN, and the Food Network
The second-day opening session was led by keynote speaker Chris Padgett, a Catholic convert, speaker, and professor at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio.
The Catholic youth were treated to “Camp Tekakwitha” at the Indianapolis Convention Center, where the teens could follow different “trails” that led them to Catholic artists, while another trail may have led to the camp store or even the high ropes course. With countless exhibits, the trails offered many opportunities.
Breakout sessions were designed for the youth to hear their favorite speakers or artists explain a different part of the faith. With almost 25 breakouts per round, it was easy to find a topic of interest, or even to see a specific speaker.
The talks ranged from chastity and prayer to feeding the hungry. Speakers also varied widely and included popular artists like Jason and Crystalina Evert and five-time Grammy nominee Matt Maher.
Kersten Hicks from the Chattanooga Deanery in the Diocese of Knoxville said she enjoyed Jason Evert because “He’s really good at getting his point across, and he makes sure to let everyone know you can start over. He wants us to know that our past doesn’t define us, but rather what we do to shape our future.”
A concert featuring Matt Maher was offered Friday night, Nov. 20, followed by adoration. Becca LeBouef, a participant from the Smoky Mountain Deanery, said “the best part by far was adoration because an entire stadium of teenagers fell silent just to worship the Lord.”
Adoration was a part of the NCYC trip that many youth previously had said they were looking forward to. When newcomer Corey Markus from the Chattanooga Deanery was asked about his experience, he said, “NCYC was one of the best experiences of my life.”
“Not only did I grow in my faith, as is the whole point of the conference, but I also grew even deeper relations with my friends and the people I was around. It was a very great and interesting opportunity to meet other Catholics my own age from all over the U.S. and parts of Canada,” Corey said.
The last night of NCYC ended with a Mass celebrated by Cardinal Óscar Rodríguez Maradiaga, archbishop of Tegucigalpa in Honduras. It was a very emotional ending to a weekend many juniors and seniors said they will never forget. The weekend also prompted freshmen and sophomores to be excited for NCYC in 2017. ■