On Thursday, November 16, 2023 over 10, 000 high school students and young adults packed into Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis for the opening night of the National Catholic Youth Conference (NCYC), among that 10,000+ were teens from Blessed Sacrament, the Youth 2 Youth Team, and Outreach Team: Dominic Griffin, Ashley Hofmeister, Angie Mechling, Faith O’Connor, Isabel Rudisel, Dan Schneider, Lorilei Seitz, Amelia Urlaub, Alex Yeakle. Plus, their adult leaders Kathy Russell & Dave Pasek.
Keep reading to learn more about their awesome experiences!
Isabel Rudisel, Youth 2 Youth & Outreach Member
I went to NCYC expecting to gain a sense of community but I gained so much more than that. While I did gain a sense of community really I gained a family. The people I met were so loving and Jesus-filled. I also gained a deeper understanding of my life and faith. I’m so grateful for going to NCYC because it’s not something that you do for a weekend, you go for a weekend but keep it for life.
Alex Yeakle, Youth 2 Youth & Outreach Member
Going to the National Catholic Youth Conference was an amazing experience and I’m so glad I went. Before, I had an idea of what it would be like because I’ve been to the Youth 2 Youth retreat before (it’s also my second year on the team for that). I expected it to be just a larger version of that but it was really a lot different and was more powerful and more amazing.
Some of my favorite parts were singing and praying throughout the weekend and getting to know an awesome group of people. The best part of the weekend was on Saturday night, the last session was closing Mass. This Mass was the best I’ve ever experienced. It’s hard to describe having 13,000 people all singing and praying together but it was really amazing and beautiful. My favorite part of Mass…Bishop Espaillat’s homily. He was telling us, the youth, to live with joy—joy over fear and taking what we feel here at NCYC home. So, that’s what I’m going to do. That means not just going to Mass every weekend but living the faith. Most importantly, that means living without fear of showing my faith.
Dan Schneider, Youth 2 Youth Team Member
If I could go back in time and tell myself one thing, right before going to NCYC 2023, I would say this: you’re in for a WILD ride, and here’s why:
The breakout-session speakers were alight with the sparks of the Holy Spirit, it seemed; every word and idea from the keynote speakers were full of clarity and precise wisdom – as if God’s heavenly intellect was speaking through their mortal tongues. God’s calm, caring compassion and his furious passion for our salvation were both present in the variety of keynote speakers that I attended. When we celebrated evening mass, the atmosphere was overwhelmingly beautiful. It was as if the presence of the Lord overshadowed the stadium in his ethereal splendor and sanctifying grace. The like-minded concentration of all 13,000 high-school youth on HIM created a very raw sense of religion, one that I can’t really describe even if I try.
The musical experience of NCYC was a nearly indescribable symphony of praise and wholehearted prayer. The hymns, spirituals, and chants ignited in me a passionate fire of belief and surrender to God that is presently a swirling blaze of furious devotion to the Lord.
The mixture of innumerable cultures, ethnicities, backgrounds, and countless otherworldly aspects of humanity, while I was at this conference was an incredible sight to see. For at NCYC, pigments were washed away by God’s blood of sanctifying grace, language barriers were torn down by God’s hand of salvation, and biases and stigmas were dispelled by the abundant love of God – everyone was one family of God’s children, all giving praise to the Father Almighty.
And that is why NCYC 2023 was such a wild rollercoaster of religious gorgeousness, and I would happily do it all over again, even if I have already experienced it all because God’s presence never gets old.
Thank you for your time reading this, and God Bless.
Faith O’Connor, Youth 2 Youth & Outreach Team Member
Participating in the National Catholic Youth Conference (NCYC) has been a transformative experience, deepening my sense of community and strengthening my faith. The spirit of unity among everyone created a belonging, making connections that made us forget about geographical boundaries. Engaging with a diverse community of young Catholics allowed me to witness the vibrantness of our shared faith. Not only did we grow together but individually too. Throughout this experience, I feel more connected with my faith than I have in a long time.
The impactful speakers and thought-provoking breakout sessions at NCYC played an important role in my faith journey throughout this trip. The resonance of personal stories and the wisdom shared by speakers left a lasting impression, inspiring a newfound commitment to living out my faith in tangible ways. The mass was life-changing, receiving the Eucharist with 13 thousand people, you could feel the presence of the Holy Spirit. Together we sang and we danced and that joy is definitely coming home with me.
Amelia Urlaub, Youth 2 Youth & Outreach Team Member
NCYC the National Catholic Youth Conference has helped me to get back into good habits within my faith. Not only has it done that but it made me realize that I find God in my community. Knowing that there were 12,000 people there for the same thing felt so welcoming. Day by day I met more and more people that were so similar to me and my situation. Going into the exhibit hall every day was some of the most fun of my whole trip, there were laughs and prayers, and the whole vibe of the place was very comforting. The keynote speakers really stood out to me and got me thinking on a different level.
Ashley Hofmeister, Youth 2 Youth & Outreach Team Member
Attending the National Catholic Youth Conference was a profound experience that deeply influenced my relationship with God. The vibrant atmosphere, filled with thousands of young believers, created a sense of unity and shared devotion that was truly inspiring. Through engaging speakers, uplifting worship sessions, and meaningful discussions, I felt a profound spiritual growth within me. The conference provided a space for introspection, allowing me to reflect on my faith, values, and purpose. This communal journey strengthened my connection with God, fostering a deeper understanding of His love and guiding me toward a more authentic and committed relationship with my faith.
Witnessing the collective energy of fellow Catholic youth, all seeking a closer connection with God, left an indelible mark on my spiritual journey. The shared moments of prayer, celebration, and reflection created a sense of community that extended beyond the event itself. The NCYC became a catalyst for ongoing spiritual growth, prompting me to integrate the lessons learned into my daily life. The experience not only deepened my personal relationship with God but also ignited a passion for sharing the joy of faith with others. As I carry the memories and lessons from the conference forward, I am inspired to continue cultivating a dynamic and evolving connection with God in my ongoing journey of faith.
Angie Mechling, Youth 2 Youth & Outreach Team Member
The National Catholic Youth Conference was an amazing experience where we were able to see thousands of others that have the same beliefs as us. My group was a lot more oriented in meeting new people and we were able to meet new people in many different ways. Whether it was trading hats, putting a clothespin on somebody, or somebody shouting at us to join their picture. It was life-changing to see everyone together for one common goal, to praise God.
Then again in Adoration, everyone sat there in complete silence. In Lucas Oil Stadium, with thousands of people kneeling looking to Jesus in silence. The fact that everyone at that moment was doing the same thing really struck me. Also, while waiting to go to Confession, we met a girl and she was terrified to go because she was the only one in her group to go, but we were with her, and afterward, she told us how we made her feel so much better about going to Confession. It felt amazing to be able to make somebody more confident to be able to share their stories with God to be forgiven.
Dominic Griffin, Outreach Team Member
I was sick for about half of NCYC, but I still experienced God there, undoubtedly. There were 12,000 Catholic youth, and when we were all in one place, it was amazing! When we were all together at the closing mass, there was a really good bishop,(Bishop Joseph Espaillat, II) who gave the homily. He said that the people can’t expect priests to always do their job if we aren’t doing ours. I thought about how much sense that made; it was very wise. This event was about sharing your faith with other people to make it stronger. We learned about developing a strong faith through people sharing their experiences and how they improved in their faith. I plan on praying more to improve my faith life.
Lorelei Seitz, Youth Ministry Participant
I came into this with a heavy heart and a closed mind. I knew I was distracted from God, and I wanted to feel His presence again. I could feel God with me throughout this NCYC experience and He knew how hard I was trying. I learned that even though it can be scary, I needed to fully put my trust in God and be thankful for the plan, or the path that He has put me on. It was so nice to feel that love and faith in the stadium, knowing I’m not alone, and there are plenty of people my age who love God and have gone through the same things I did.
One thing that has been stuck in my mind is the phrase, “You are not a problem to be solved, but a mystery to be contemplated.” That was so impactful and relieving to hear. All of the speakers were so impactful and their stories and analogies were beautiful, but the one person who really hit my heart was ValLimar Jansen. She was so engaging and persuasive and she truly loved God and that love shook me to the core. God’s presence was so strong when she was on that stage, and everyone felt that.
To conclude, I’m so grateful I got to experience NCYC. I love all the people I met, the hats I traded, clothes pins I clipped, but especially, I’m very grateful that my connection with
God is strong again, that my mind is open, and that my heart is filled with love.
Dave Pasek (Chaperone)
One of the small session talks was very impactful for me. Calling us to praise God. And we all can see that and see God in His amazing creation. All of creation is made to praise God, and we are too. Like the symphony that tunes up all on one note, we need to get in tune and praise God together with creation! Very inspirational.
Also, seeing a stadium full of people, all kneeling in silence and praising God in song during Adoration, and with thousands of young people all together singing at the top of their lungs and praise of our God at mass, filled with joy and energy at the closing song, shouting amens in the stadium with endless echoes. With funny, challenging, and powerful insights from the funny, deep, and real bishop, (Bishop Joseph Espaillat, II,) was really fulfilling.
I think all ages would benefit from going to an NCYC thing to re-energize and inspire one’s faith.
We would like to say thank you for all of your prayers and support on this pilgrimage to Indianapolis. Without a supportive faith community, this experience would not have been possible. Your support for the young people of the parish and the programs we participate in is greatly appreciated!
~Dominic, Ashley, Angie, Faith, Isabel, Dan, Lorelei, Amelia, Alex, Kathy, and Dave