Almost 2,500 Houston-Galveston area youth gather to celebrate faith
August 19, 2014
HOUSTON — It’s not often we hear about high school students talking about and celebrating their faith, but that’s exactly what happened July 25 to 27 at the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston’s Archdiocesan Youth Conference (AYC). This year’s theme was “No Cross... No Crown.”
In the largest gathering of its kind, nearly 2,500 participants celebrated God and their faith, and to experience the diversity of the Archdiocese. Throughout the weekend, the teenagers were challenged to live out their faith, learn from exciting and informative presentations, make new friendships and talk about and reflect upon their role in the Church.
“It is encouraging to see nearly 2,500 youth at AYC. It’s a wonderful testament to the world about the joy and peace in the Church, and the youth are discovering it for themselves,” said Daniel Cardinal DiNardo. “Young people need to be challenged and that is what Jesus does when He says, ‘Take up your cross and follow me.’ Our youth are not just the Church of the future. They are the Church of today.”
“As we look at the times we are living in and the negative light that is sometimes placed on our youth, it is refreshing to see teens profess their faith and seek to be models of Christ to their peers,” said Brian K. Johnson, director of the Archdiocesan Office of Adolescent Catechesis and Evangelization (Youth Ministry). “It is a humbling and amazing experience to watch the work of human hands be transformed by the Holy Spirit, into something as truly incredible as this gathering of the youth of our Archdiocese.
This year was the second time 16-year-old Seth Dalton attended AYC. “After attending last year’s conference, there was no possible way I’d miss this one. My experience last year was just spectacular,” Dalton said. “God spoke to me in ways that I’d never imagined possible: through the music, the community, the speakers, adoration, and in so many other ways.”
Dalton said this year’s AYC helped the continued growth of his faith.
“Attending AYC this year has bolstered my faith in so many ways,” he said. “ Through listening to all of the inspirational keynote speakers, meditating during adoration, spending time with the faith community around me, and experiencing the unique energetic atmosphere that only AYC offers, both my faith and my everyday life have improved immensely.”
Christine Enih, 18, said that the at the event AYC she spent a lot of time reflecting on the Bible verse which read “If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.”
“I learned that in order to become a true follower of Christ, I must deny myself by letting go of all relationships and habits that keep me from truly giving my all to God,” she said. “I believe that God used AYC to speak to me and guide me closer to Him.”
Every year at AYC a different devotion to Mary representing the cultural diversity of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston is selected. This year’s devotion is to Our Lady of Africa who represents the struggles that African-American Catholics have experienced through history.
At AYC, the teenagers enjoy the chance to talk freely and openly about the challenges they face. In addition, they have the opportunity to explore their role in the Church, how they can develop healthy relationships with peers, adults and parents, and experience the reality of diverse cultures and faith expressions. It’s also a chance for these young people to explore issues of faith and learn how to respond to questions about Church teachings. As a result, they gain a deeper love of Church and each other, find an acceptance of diversity, and learn how they can take action for peace and justice in our world.
Daily Mass is offered during the conference with Cardinal DiNardo presiding at the closing Mass on Sunday morning. Participants have the opportunity to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation and take part in a Eucharistic Adoration.
Jennifer Dennington, 16, said, “AYC definitely revives the passion I have for my faith that is sometimes lost over summer. I am ready for this school year because I know that there are 2,500-plus other Catholics who are facing the challenges of teenage life with me, and that trust and love God like I do because of this amazing conference.”
Johnson said it is always a lot of hard work putting the annual event together, “but seeing the youth and the joy that they have — that’s its own reward. Each year we are astounded by the increase of youth that show up from the previous year. In fact, this year was the first time that we had to close registration early for the 22 years that I have been here.”
Major presenters for the weekend included Father Agustino Torres, Father Joseph A. Espaillat, Daniel Harms, Kyle Heimann and Ansel Augustine. For more information about AYC, visit www.archgh.org/youthministry/ayc/.