Archdiocesan Youth Council focuses on the Jubilee Year of Mercy

June 14, 2016

The Archdiocesan Youth Conference (AYC) gathers participants from all over the local Church of Galveston-Houston and is the largest evangelizing event for older adolescents annually hosted by the Office of Adolescent Catechesis and Evangelization. 

Every year, a specific Mother Mary is chosen as the patroness of AYC. This year, Our Mother of Mercy, is our intercessor. 

For centuries, Christians all over the world have cried out to the Blessed Virgin Mary with these words, placing themselves under her tender care. We hear this cry in the life of St. Faustina Kowalska, especially in a beautiful and tender passage in her diary where Mary encourages us all to approach her as a merciful mother: “I saw the Mother of God with the Infant Jesus in her arms. ...I could not stop wondering at His beauty. ...I heard a few of the words that the Mother of God spoke. ...The words were: “I am not only the Queen of Heaven, but also the Mother of Mercy, and your Mother.” (Diary of St. Faustina, 330).

Through the years, the location and number of attendees has changed, moving out of the Hilton Americas-Houston Hotel’s main ballroom to the George R. Brown Convention Center last year. More than 3,000 now attend AYC, making it one of the nation’s largest diocesan youth conferences.

At AYC, incoming ninth graders through outgoing high school seniors are challenged to live out their faith, learn from informative presentations, listen to outstanding national speakers and make new friendships. 

Friday starts the weekend with keynote speaker Chris Padgett who, for more than a decade, has shared the truth of Christ’s love and the importance of who Jesus is and what He has, is and will do in the lives of His people. 

The night will end with a concert by Ike Ndolo and his band. Ndolo developed a love of music at home, growing up to the ringing of hymns from his mother’s voice. He continued his musical development at St. Timothy’s in Mesa, Arizona, where he was mentored by legends Tom Booth and Matt Maher. 

Saturday is full of opportunities for the Young Church to encounter the Lord with keynotes by Roy Petitfils and Sister Miriam Heidland, SOLT. With a masters in counseling from ULL, Petitfils is a St. Joseph Seminary College graduate. He also studied at Angelicum, the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome, Italy. He considers himself lucky to have the opportunity to speak and help people encounter the Lord throughout the country. 

Sister Heidland is a graduate of the University of Nevada-Reno, where she played volleyball on a scholarship and majored in communications. Although she hoped to work for ESPN, Heidland’s life was transformed in a slow but deep way during her college years. Through the friendship with a holy priest, Heidland’s life began to transform as she realized Jesus was real. In 1998, she entered the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity, a missionary community that serves global areas of deepest apostolic need. 

On Saturday afternoon, participants can pick from 11 catechetical sessions ranging from the following topics: transitioning to college, vocations and Christian leadership. All the keynote speakers will lead at least one interactive and engaging catechetical session, moving deeper than their keynotes.

Abby Johnson and Brian Butler will also join AYC for the first time. Johnson has always had a fierce determination to help women in need, leading her to a career with Planned Parenthood, our nation’s largest abortion provider, which caused her to flee the organization. She is now an outspoken advocate for the pro-life movement. 

Butler is co-author of both Theology of the Body for Teens High School and Middle School Editions. He is the executive director of Dumb Ox Ministries, a non-profit organization dedicated to chastity for young people. Butler holds a master’s degree in theology from Notre Dame Seminary School of Theology. 

The weekend culminates with Exposition and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, which includes a combination of silence, music and Sacred Scripture. 

Mass on Saturday is at 10:45 a.m., and on Sunday at 10:30 a.m. Sunday’s Mass celebrant will be Daniel Cardinal DiNardo. In light of the Jubilee Year of Mercy, Cardinal DiNardo invited all priests to join him at AYC to hear confessions so our young people can experience God’s mercy.
Young people, you are invited to join the local Church during AYC. Participants will experience the diversity of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston! They will have the opportunity to share and deepen their relationship with Jesus Christ through daily Mass, Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, confession and other prayer experiences. Contact your local parish catechetical leader if you have any questions about AYC, or are interested in attending. 

Dunn Estacio is an associate director with the Archdiocesan Office of Adolescent Catechesis and Evangelization.