Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

  • (Front row, l-r) Jonathan McGee, 16, and Michael Ropero-Cartier, 18, from St, Luke Church, Raleigh, N.C., pray the Our Father during Mass. Photo By Michael Alexander
  • Father Nick Schumm, parochial vicar at St. Rose of Lima Church, Milton, Fla., delivers his homily during the morning Mass of the Steubenville Atlanta Conference, July 18. Photo By Michael Alexander
  • Teens gather at the front of the stage inside the Gwinnett Conference Center as Matt Maher and his band perform. Photo By Michael Alexander
  • Matthew Beattie, foreground right, of St. Margaret Mary Church, Slidell, La., is among a group of teens invited on the stage by Christian hip-hop artist, Righteous B, foreground left, to perform their own brand of freestyle rap.
  • Seventeen-year-old T.J. Brodell of St. Michael the Archangel Church, Woodstock, participates in a large group dance and game called My Baby. Photo By Michael Alexander
  • TTeens from the Korean Martyrs Catholic Church, Doraville, break for lunch at the Steubenville Atlanta Conference. Photo By Michael Alexander

(Front row, l-r) Jonathan McGee, 16, and Michael Ropero-Cartier, 18, from St, Luke Church, Raleigh, N.C., pray the Our Father during Mass. Photo By Michael Alexander


Teens Celebrate Faith At Steubenville

By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published August 6, 2009

Mix chest-thumbing music with thousands of high-energy teenagers, throw in Catholic devotions and talks about Mary and the saints and what you get is Steubenville Atlanta.

The annual celebration of music and faith drew some 2,300 teens and young adults to the Gwinnett Conference Center July 17-19 for three days and two nights.

From a Christian rapper who helps people recover from drug addictions to a speaker talking about her top 10 dating tips, the weekend delivered high-octane worship.

Christina Schiveree, 18, of St, John Neumann Church, Lilburn, and Anthony Santaniello, 15, of St. Luke Church, Smyrna, Tenn., find a quiet area where they can pray the Liturgy of the Hours. The two teens met at the 2008 Steubenville Atlanta Conference. Photo By Michael Alexander

“Everyone acts like they want to be here. Everyone is energetic and happy,” said Lauren David, 16, from Mississippi, adding another highlight is that “getting close to God is a huge plus.”

Steubenville Atlanta, co-sponsored by Life Teen, is one of 19 summer youth conferences offered by Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio. Speakers included Mark Hart, known as the “Bible Geek”; Mary Bielski, who leads “Glory,” a Eucharistic adoration celebration for teen and college students; and host Ennie Hickman, who worked in parish youth ministry for eight years and is now a full-time domestic missionary, along with his wife.

Musicians entertaining and educating the throngs of fist-waving fans were Matt Maher, one of the most popular contemporary Catholic music artists in the country, and Bob Lesnefsky with his stage name: Righteous B.

The event had separate sessions for men and women, along with small group discussions. Workshops taught topics from Mary and the saints and “Living Justice—Living Mercy” to vocations and the Mass.

Some 14 priests assisted by several deacons celebrated the Saturday morning Mass. The homilist, Father Nicholas Schumm, of Pensacola, Fla., urged the young people to develop a friendship with Jesus and with people who will care for their well-being.

“One of God’s greatest gifts is friendship. Jesus thirsts for your friendship,” he said.

This year’s theme was taken from the Old Testament book of I Chronicles: “Above All.”

The message struck home with Brandon Vuksanovich, 15, of Winston Salem, N.C. He and some 60 young people from St. Leo the Great Church drove more than five hours to get here. The group stood out with T-shirts of “Top 5 Catholic Pick Up Lines,” including “Is that a new perfume or the odor of sanctity?”

It was Vuksanovich’s second trip to the conference. The first trip inspired him to take his faith more seriously, so he became an usher at his church.

“It turned out to be one of the best things I’ve done in my life,” he said. “I felt I drew more closely to Christ.”

He welcomed the second trip. The message he heard was “If you put God first, everything else will fall into place.”

Lauren David and two other friends from Columbus, Miss., attended this year’s Steubenville Atlanta Conference. Photo By Michael Alexander

Patrick Kim, 14, who is an incoming freshman at Duluth’s Northview High School and attends Korean Martyrs Church, Doraville, was initially skeptical about spending a weekend during vacation at the event. Kim was one of close to 20 from the Atlanta Archdiocese parish.

But the enthusiasm here won him over.

“It was better than I expected because during Mass it brings me closer to God,” said Kim, an altar server.

Kim said the message he heard was to “try to stay close to God even if I am not at a retreat.”

Three best friends from Columbus, Miss., found themselves in a sea of Catholics. Usually, they are odd ones out in the community in northeast Mississippi.

Mary Bielski prays with the large audience of women during their morning breakout session. Photo By Michael Alexander

Lauren David, Margo Friloux, Courtney Freeland, all 16, were taking it all in.

A highlight for them was just seeing other Catholic teenagers. Freeland said, “It’s different seeing so many our age.”

And the worship style, with raising hands in praise and Eucharistic adoration with young people, is new, David said. “It was a really big change for me. It is a lot more fun.”

Friloux said Catholics are very much a minority in her town, so to see others is a nice change.

“It’s easier to open up about (being Catholic)” and “proud of faith” here, she said.

Brittany McCormick, from North Carolina, is making her fourth visit to the conference. “Life happens. And you need that renewal every year to just get stronger. It refreshes your view of God and Catholic. It is incredible,” she said.