Caring for the future means investing in those who will share it, and at the National Catholic Youth Conference, Felician sisters ministered to high school students by creating an oasis of joy in a sea of concrete, with exhibit tables representing different ministries, and “rooms” for conversation, meditation, learning, service, and fun.
The National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry (NFCYM), the organization for youth ministers at parishes around the country, who sponsors the 3-day gathering, welcomed teens and chaperones from all around the country to trust in the Lord with this year’s theme: “Walk on Water.” Historically, the conference has been held biennially in Indianapolis, but organizers recently decided to gather annually, alternating between Indianapolis and Long Beach, CA, in an attempt to reach more teens; 2022 marked the first NCYC West Coast event.
The floor of the Long Beach Convention Center’s expo hall was covered with booths promoting various programs or items for Catholic youth, as well as inflatables, giant games, and a stage for live performances. Mass, reconciliation, and opportunities to speak with men and women religious were available daily. The Felician sisters had a significant presence, with a large corner booth that included Felician Mission: Haiti, St. Anne’s Family Ministries, McGuire Memorial, Seeds of Hope, and several fun and teaching activities to engage the nearly 3,000 youth who attended.
Popular stickers, hats, and t-shirts featuring Blessed Mary Angela quotes and hand-made rosaries from the sisters in Chicago, were handed out to teens who participated in the activities. Each activity provided a learning moment, prayer, or opportunity for service.
Youth were given an opportunity to carry a 5-gallon bucket of water balloons through a “Haitian Village” to learn about the scarcity and preciousness that water represents for Haitians, messages of Christmas cheer and positivity were created for clients of Felician-sponsored ministries, Sister Judy Blizzard in conjunction with WQED studios created meditation recordings for teens to listen to and decompress, the Haitian sisters held Midday Prayer each day and sang joyfully, teens could make a Haitian bracelet and swap it with a Haitian “Pay if Forward” student – who made bracelets for the event, tables for watercolor painting, and a photo booth where they could take selfies and tag us on social media – and then learn about Seeds of Hope. The seven Felician sisters and ministry staff who attended the conference loved interacting with the young people. The sisters had many deep conversations with Catholic teens, who gravitated to their inviting space and appreciated the chance to be with the sisters.