At National Catholic Youth Conference, 20,000 teens told they are
‘Beloved children of God, called by name’
Some 270 9th-12th graders and adult sponsors from the Catholic Diocese of Dodge City joined 20,000 youth from across the United States for the Nov. 16-18 National Catholic Youth Conference in Indianapolis.
After a few hours of raucous celebration with the music of Christian hip-hop band TobyMac, the massive crowd melted into silence as Indianapolis Archbishop Charles C. Thompson greeted all those gathered.
He told the youth that although they represent many states and dioceses, “we are first and foremost children of God. And that God who knows us, desires to be known by us. … God wanted us to know him ... through a personal relationship with a human being, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
“We are beloved children of God, called by name, claimed by Christ,” he said. “We begin this NCYC weekend by embracing that reality of who we are.”
Chris Stefanick, an internationally acclaimed author, speaker and founder of Real Life Catholic, said that we often forget the “love story” that is at the base of the Catholic faith.
“When you remove the love story, what are you left with?” he asked. “Rules that we have to follow. Rituals that we’re not sure why we keep them alive but they take a lot of time. Doctrines that have nothing to do with your life. That’s how the world has come to see Catholicism. … The world has forgotten the love story, and so often we’ve forgotten the love story.”
That story, he said, “begins very simply with the words ‘(I) believe in one God.’”
Not believing in God, he said, is like “a flea not believing in the dog. ... The universe did not put itself here, and the more we learn about the universe, the more it shouts to us about the existence of God....
“We feel so small in this world,” continued. “We feel so insignificant in this universe.
“I think God looks down from heaven and says, ‘You are huge next to all this.’ As big as a mountain is, can it know someone? As big as an ocean is, can it make a choice? As big as a galaxy is, can it choose to love? No, but you can. ... You’re a huge deal!”
Among those attending the event from the Diocese of Dodge City was Adam Urban, Director of Youth Ministry for the Catholic Diocese of Dodge City, who served as delegate leader, and Carleigh Albers, youth and young adult ministry intern.
“My favorite part of the conference was probably adoration and night prayer with the monks from St. Meinrad,” Albers said. “I also really enjoyed spending time with the kids from St. Dominic’s and getting to know them better.
“The young church is alive and is yearning for a deeper relationship with their Creator,” she added. “Jesus is not somewhere in a foreign land, but rather He is here and fully present—we just need to do what Pope Francis has told us which is to ‘ask Jesus what He wants from you and be brave’.”
— Natalie Hoefer, a reporter at The Criterion, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, contributed to this article.