Spending a weekend with a couple of thousand teenagers in one building is possibly one of the scariest scenarios for the average population. Add blaring loud music, sleep deprivation, and long lines to eat meals—are you terrified yet? But, what if I was to explain that during this weekend, the teens were all there doing several things, such as coming together to praise and worship God, learning and growing in their Catholic faith, and experiencing communion and fellowship with youth from all over the Diocese of Austin. Would that change how you felt about the situation? Last weekend, this is precisely what happened in Waco, TX. Almost 2,500 Catholic teenagers gathered at the Waco Convention Center for the annual Diocesan Catholic Youth Conference (DCYC).
During the weekend, teens were able to sing praise and worship songs led by the house band Soundwave, listen to two keynote speakers (Mark Hart and Ansel Augustine), attend different workshops, as well as have the opportunity to go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation at various times throughout the conference. There were also many vendors, as well as informational tables out that the teens and adults could look at during free times.
My group of teens particularly enjoyed the keynote speakers. Mark Hart had the crowd rolling on the ground in laughter as he told funny childhood stories and his love for Star Wars, and then had everyone reflecting how they were “made for greatness, not comfort.” Ansel Augustine held everyone’s attention as he described the hardships he endured during Hurricane Katrina and posed the question “can you be mistaken for Jesus?” While this conference is geared primarily for teens, I believe many adults were able to reflect and evaluate their own faith as well as how to help teens to grow in theirs.
Fittingly, the theme of the weekend was Porta Fidei which in Latin translates to “door of faith.” In November, Pope Benedict XVI declared it to be the Year of Faith, with the invitation that “the door of faith is always open.” Something I think we as adults should remind teens who attend these kinds of events is that it is easy to come back from DCYC and feel on fire with your faith and want to share it. But that feeling can become stagnant if not nurtured. In Paul’s letter to Timothy, he gives a piece of advice by saying: “let no one look down on you because you are young, but set an example to the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12). This is an ideal verse for teenagers. It reminds teens that people are constantly looking at them and how they act.
This year, I was overwhelmed with a feeling of hope. Seeing that many teens all united as Catholics is nothing short of amazing. It is miraculous to me how the simple yet profound act of the Sign of the Cross can completely silence a crowd that large. Seeing nearly 2,500 Catholic youth all gathered extending their arms towards Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament during Eucharistic Adoration, singing and dancing during praise and worship, participating in Mass and Reconciliation, helps me to know that the Catholic Church is in good hands. These youth ARE the Church NOW.
Share your memories, stories, and pictures in the comments.
PS. I also hear that St. Williams is still looking for BOB…