By SAMANTHA SMITH, Staff Writer | Published August 8, 2019
DULUTH —Teens from Atlanta and surrounding areas gathered July 12-14 for the annual Steubenville Atlanta conference at the Infinite Energy Center in Duluth.
This year’s theme was “Belong” and highlighted the Bible verse 1 John 3:1, “See what love the Father has bestowed on us, that we may be called children of God.”
The Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio hosts Steubenville conferences for youth, adults, parish missions and clergy. In partnership with the university, Life Teen hosts six conferences every summer for high school students. This summer, more than 50,000 teens across North America attended the 24 conferences combined.
In addition to approximately 2,800 teens, some 200 volunteers and 40 priests gathered for Steubenville Atlanta.
According to Life Teen, the purpose of the Steubenville youth conferences is to strengthen and inspire “teens and youth groups in their collective journeys with Christ.”
“Today more than ever before, it is easier to feel alone,” as explained in the Steubenville Atlanta event trailer. “So often we hide our brokenness, and only show others what we want them to see. But in the depth of our hearts, we long for a purpose. We are the children of God, and we belong to him.”
The Steubenville weekend conferences include keynote speakers, Mass, adoration, workshops, small group sessions and separate sessions for the young men and women.
“My favorite part of Steubenville Atlanta was during my time at adoration,” said Katherine Adair, a teen from St. Peter Chanel Church in Roswell. “I found a new sense of peace in the presence of Jesus Christ while being surrounded by a large number of Catholic students,” she said.
“The church needs you, and God calls you to be a part of it,” said Kyle Heimann, from The Kyle Heimann podcast show and member of this year’s ministry team for Steubenville Atlanta.
The ministry team also included Chris Padgett, a musician, motivational speaker and teacher at Catholic Distance University; Megan Mastroianni, associate director of Anthem, the youth and young adult ministry in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia; Father Joe Freedy, a priest from the Diocese of Pittsburg and Ike Ndolo, a musician who shares songs of sin, doubt, hope and redemption.
“Time is your greatest commodity…The fact that you’re spending your time here is a big, big deal,” said Mark Hart, the Friday night keynote speaker and executive vice president of Life Teen. Hart spoke about fear and forgiveness.
Even if you are afraid to pray or make a step forward in your faith, God wants a relationship with you, said Hart. “Even if you’re afraid, God’s not. He’s got you,” he said.
“There’s not one sin, not one, that God won’t forgive except the sin you don’t ask forgiveness for because you’re too scared or too prideful,” he said.
Hart said that he encourages teens to pray, because when you stop praying, you begin to doubt God’s presence, promises, faithfulness, goodness, love and existence.
“You have to believe in the love of God. You have to trust in the love of God,” said Hart, so that no matter how bad your sin is, you know that God is there for you.
“I would encourage any student to attend the next Steubenville conference,” said Adair. “By attending, you will come back a different person, whether it’s your relationship with Christ, how you look at yourself or simply how you interact with your family and friends.”