Published November 3, 2005
What do you do when 20,000 teenagers stop by for a visit? Well, after you catch your breath, you confidently turn to the amazing people of the Archdiocese of Atlanta to help plan for our largest ever youth conference. We did just that about a year and a half ago when we first agreed to host this event. The people of the Archdiocese who worked in conjunction with our Youth Office, our Religious Education Office and the national planning committee were nothing less than spectacular in their generous and creative response. I cannot thank them enough for helping to make this past weekend such a success and so much fun for so many wonderful young Catholics who converged on Atlanta. We provided an army of volunteers who handled everything from arranging the many displays, to transportation coordinators, to set-up and take down crews, to liturgy plans. There was no job too big or too hidden that was overlooked! Thank you in my name and more importantly in the names of the youngsters who celebrated our Catholic Faith and who enjoyed Atlanta’s renowned hospitality this past weekend.
As I celebrated the final Eucharist with them, I could not help but notice that the young people were great singers—the music was spectacular, as was the level of enthusiasm and wholehearted participation. Our seminarians assisted in the liturgy, and they too must have been heartened by the obvious joy of those young folks at prayer.
During that closing Mass with the youngsters, the cantor had a little stage fright and found it difficult to continue with singing of the Responsorial Psalm, and in a spontaneous gesture of support and empathy, the assembly of youngsters broke out into applause to let her know that they valued and appreciated her willingness to lead them in song. I was so proud of our kids at that very moment—they intuitively understood her nervousness and through their clapping they assured her that they were grateful! Such sensitivity and compassion on the part of those youngsters was a wonderful gesture of kindness and a sure sign that the Church of tomorrow seems to be on pretty solid ground!
The next NCYC will take place in Columbus, Ohio, in 2007 (it’s a biennial event). I was able to promote the project with a video interview that will be used in preparation for the next NCYC. Parents of today’s young people are so often confounded as to how they can encourage the Faith development of their children. There are more than a few influences that parents would prefer their youngsters not encounter. This weekend’s events were a great source of encouragement to our youngsters to love and practice our Catholic Faith. They met other young Catholics from throughout our nation who share their values, their love for Christ and their hope for the future. We all felt better about tomorrow because of this conference. I hope that many of our Atlanta young people are already planning to participate at the next conference in Columbus in 2007.