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High School Youth Called to Be WitnessesAbout 1,200 high school students from the US and Canada attended the conference
Posted: Wednesday, June 18, 2008
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STEUBENVILLE, OH-"Let’s tell God that he’s worth our time and praise," said Brian Kissinger, host of Franciscan University of Steubenville’s Youth Conference, held June 13-15.
"There is nowhere you can end up that is beyond his love. At your worst, the worse you can ever be, he will be with you, beside you, humbling himself."
About 1,200 high school students from the US and Canada attended the conference. 32 years ago, 1,000 youth and young adults gathered in Steubenville, Ohio, for the first Franciscan University youth conference. This summer, over 40,000 teens will participate in 19 youth conferences in 11 states in the U.S. and in Nova Scotia, Canada.
The conference theme, "Witness," stressed the need for young adults to witness to a world that has no hope.
"The word witness in Greek means martyr," said Kissinger. "You are going to be challenged by the world, and you will have to stand in the face of adversity."
The weekend was filled with opportunities to receive the sacrament of confession, Mass, and eucharistic adoration. Teenagers met others who shared a love for Christ and grew in faith as they listened to speakers.
"I've never seen so many Catholic teens in one place," said Taylor Walters of St. Peter’s Parish in Palmyra, Virginia. "The talks were interesting and kept my attention. I wasn’t bored."
In the women’s session, "Witness of the Body," newlywed Caroline Gamble told girls that they can stand up in the face of the world that pushes them down. “We end up compromising so much of ourselves, because we are afraid. We need to reclaim our dignity and take a stand.”
Men's speaker, Chris Padgett, emphasized that men need to focus on purity and to strive to follow Christ completely.
"All men want to find satisfaction in life. You can only be satisfied with Christ," he said.
He used the example of Mary, the Mother of God as an example for young men. "She shows us that it’s important to say yes to God and no to self gratification."
"This talk was really good for me," said Isandro Gomez from Holy Family Parish in Caledonia, Michigan. "It was inspiring to hear that it’s important to strive for God."
Rapper Righteous B (Bob Lesnefsky) entertained teens on Saturday, interacting with the crowd and delivering "God’s message" in a modern style, that showed participants the importance of having fun as Catholics.
Workshops included "Vocation: Discerning God’s Call to Live as a Witness," "Prayer: The Heart of Witness," and "How to Witness—Sharing Christ With Words and Deeds."
This was Mark Bowlin’s first conference, and he said he found a treasure chest of ideas for the youth group he leads at St. Peter’s Parish in Palmyra, Virginia. "This conference is our springboard for the rest of the year," he said. "We are taking all that we learn here and bringing it to our parish."
Youth from St. Ignatius Parish in Cincinnati, Ohio, have been coming since 1995.
"Our pastor comes to Franciscan University for the priest’s conference," said Kris Schoettaner. "He recommended that we start to bring teens here." Since then, the parish youth group has flourished and grown. "We now have about 25 teens in the music ministry and had to hire a youth minister to help with everything," she added.
Greg Geckle, LifeTeen coordinator of St. Ignatius knows the youth conferences have enabled parish life to flourish.
"We started a youth-oriented Mass in the evenings, similar to one at Steubenville and that has grown enormously," he said. "It not only includes youth, but the entire parish has tapped into it. What started with 12 people in the front row for Mass has changed to standing room only."
Other upcoming Franciscan University summer conferences include the St. John Bosco Conference (July 16-20) for Catholic educators and the Defending the Faith Conference, (July 25-27), which focuses on Catholic apologetics. For more information, including a complete list of conferences for adults and youth, go to www.franciscanconferences.com