Catholic Youth Meetings: Camaraderie, Spirit, Understanding of Glenmary
By Pat McEntee
Associate Vocation Director
A familiar chant could be heard on the streets of downtown Indianapolis throughout the weekend before Thanksgiving. It was a call and response chant of "NC!" "YC!"
The spirit and camaraderie of 23,000 young people were clearly touched by the presence of the Holy Spirit. What else could unite that many people in such a short period of time? Perhaps the hats? If you've never been to a National Catholic Youth Conference (NCYC), then maybe you don't know that hats are huge—the more bizarre, the better. We saw pope/bishop hats, chicken hats, turkey hats, horse hats and thousands more. Students have made it a tradition to bring the most outlandish hats they can find.
Members of a given diocese or youth group sometimes wear matching hats to help identify themselves in the mass of people. Others bring their hats to trade. You see, trading is another time-honored tradition at NCYC: a way for people from various parts of the United States to make connections. It's also a way to take a memento home and to leave one with somebody else. The hats and other trinkets that are brought to be traded among the teens are really only symbols that represent something more—their connection to the larger Church. If you ask any of the young people at NCYC, they are there to share in the presence of Christ with tens of thousands of their peers from around the country.
That presence of Christ was evident at the closing Mass for NCYC, when the participants filled Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis. It was a sharp contrast to NCYC 2009 in Kansas City, where the arena was unable to hold all of the participants and about 5,000 people had to watch a simulcast in a convention center ballroom. This year's event facility, a National Football League stadium, enabled all participants to see and worship with one another.
In addition, this year's closing Mass was special because it was on the Feast of Christ the King, which was also the last feast celebrated with the previous translation of the Roman Missal.
For the three days leading up to the closing Mass, Glenmary's Vocation Office set up a booth in the Vocation Village area of the exhibit hall, "Victory Park." Vocation director Brother David Henley, first vice president Father Neil Pezzulo, several Glenmary students and I staffed the booth and represented Glenmary Home Missioners.
The large Glenmary presence allowed us to interact with the steady stream of young people, thanks in part to a constantly running popcorn machine and the funny hats that we were raffling off throughout the weekend. Over 1,000 people stopped by the booth to learn about Glenmary and the tremendous mission need in the United States.
NCYC takes place every other year in odd-numbered years. The next one in 2013 will also be held in Indianapolis, and rumor has it that Indianpolis may host the event in 2015, 2017 and 2019 as well.
In addition to the great turnout at NCYC, the National Catholic Collegiate Conference (NCCC) hosted its own energetic conference in downtown Indianapolis at the same time. This first-ever NCCC meeting boasted over 200 participants. Because their conference occurred in conjunction with NCYC, they were able to advertise their organization to high school juniors and seniors who will be of college age at the next conference. The hope is that many of them will want to return in order to participate in the experience again at the college level. The exhibit hall was open to NCCC members for a couple of hours each day, and because it was not overcrowded, we were able to have more in-depth conversations with NCCC participants who stopped by the Glenmary booth.