Sheila Grove

NORTHWEST PA — Ablaze was the empowering theme of the recent National Catholic Youth Conference in Indianapolis, Indiana, Nov. 18 – 20. Participants were invited to allow the Holy Spirit to set them afire with enthusiasm for being part of the body of Christ.

Conference participants gather at Lucas Oil Stadium
in Indianapolis for NCYC.             Contributed Photo

          Sixty youth from the Diocese of Erie caught the message and “were examples of hope, inclusivity and faith,” says Jillian Zaczyk, director of Young Adult and Youth Ministry for the Office of Faith Formation of the Diocese of Erie. Zaczyk coordinated the contingent of youth, youth ministers and chaperones from across the diocese who joined 11,000 others for the event.

          According to the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry (NFCYM) website, the conference, offered every two years by the organization, looks to a “future when young people see themselves as children of God who live as missionary disciples of Jesus Christ; when the gifts, struggles and diverse realities of young people are welcomed in Catholic faith communities; when ministry leaders have embraced the joy of the Gospel; and when families are living as the domestic Church.”

          This mission, reflected in NFCYM events throughout the year, was front and center at the Indianapolis conference. As the event organizers know their audience, high energy activities — silly hats and games ─ were mixed in with opportunities for prayer, reflection, service and the sacraments. Attention also was directed toward important issues for youth ─ belonging, self-esteem, identity and direction.

Attendees from the Diocese of Erie pose for a selfie.
Contributed Photo

          Zaczyk was impressed by the connections she witnessed.

          “Young people jumped in to play games with people across the country and sat hand-in-hand to make rosary bracelets and water-resistant mats for the homeless. A moment that really moved me,” she reflected, “was sitting next to some of our young people during adoration. You could tell that their hearts were both open and on fire for Jesus as their hands were raised and their eyes were closed. Almost all our young people went to reconciliation at that time as well because they wanted to be as close to Jesus as they possibly could.” 

          Zaczyk was moved everyone was asked to pray over each other.

          “Our young people automatically, and without hesitation,
put their arms over each other’s shoulders,” she said. “It was a literal and metaphorical moment that revealed the intimacy of
body of Christ.”

          The weekend was a source of hope and inspiration for the young attendees and those who accompanied them.

Left to right: Father Rich Toohey, pastor of Our Lady
Peace Parish, Erie; Father Kevin Holland, parochial
vicar of 
Queen of the World Parish, St. Marys; Father
John Detisch, 
pastor of St. Jude the Apostle Parish,
Erie, and Father Ross 
Miceli, pastor of St. Boniface
Parish, Kersey, accompanied the group to Indianapolis.  
Photo/Father Ross Miceli

 Editor's note: Here's a link to a related national story about the event.