More than 2,500 young people explore mercy at AYC

August 16, 2016

HOUSTON — Thousands of high school students from all across the Archdiocese flooded downtown Houston to celebrate their Catholic faith at the 60th Archdiocesan Youth Conference (AYC), July 29 to 31. 

Pope Francis’ call for the Jubilee Year of Mercy inspired this year’s theme: “Blessed,” drawn from the Gospel of St. Matthew: “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” In choosing the theme, the youth of the Archdiocesan Youth Council discussed what mercy means to them and why it is important for young people. 

“The youth determined that the theme ‘Blessed’ was the central message they wanted to send in this Year of Mercy,” said Brian K. Johnson, director of the Archdiocesan Office of Adolescent Catechesis and Evangelization. “They wanted their peers to come to know God’s endless and boundless mercy and forgiveness... they believe that, in knowing God’s mercy, young people will be inspired and able to show mercy to others, and help them to know mercy as well.”

During AYC, the country’s largest diocesan youth conference, participants were able to talk freely and openly about the challenges they faced. They had the opportunity to explore their role in the Church, learn how they can develop healthy relationships with peers, adults and parents, and experience the reality of diverse cultures and faith expressions. 

“AYC is by far the best experience I have ever had,” said Anna Winter, an Incarnate Word Academy student. “Everyone there is so compassionate, caring and excited to represent Christ to the best of their abilities. The speakers inspire, the chaperones journey and your friends support you in your faith during AYC.”

It’s also a chance for these young people like Winter to explore issues of faith and learn how to respond to questions about Church teachings. 
“AYC provides an opportunity for our youth to share in the richness and fullness of their faith with their peers,” said Daniel Cardinal DiNardo. “Our youth are not only the Church of the future, but they are the Church of today. AYC is a wonderful testament that our young people are filled with joy and zeal for Christ and the Gospel message.” 

Major keynote speakers for the weekend included Chris Padgett, who has shared Christ’s love to young people for more than a decade; Sister Miriam Heidland, SOLT, a former college student-athlete, turned Catholic sister; Roy Petitfils, a Louisiana Catholic speaker; Abby Johnson, an outspoken advocate for the pro-life movement; and Brian Butler, a Theology of the Body for Teens author and speaker. Attendees also enjoyed entertainment with hip hop artist Joe Melendrez and a concert with renowned Catholic music artist Ike Ndolo.

Daily Mass was offered during the conference with Cardinal DiNardo presiding at the closing Mass on Sunday morning. Eucharistic Adoration and the Sacrament of Reconciliation, also known as confession, were also available. 

The theme for the 2017 AYC, “Holiness,” was announced at the end of the conference. The next AYC conference is set for July 28 to 30, 2017 in downtown Houston.