Youth conference registration underway

Buoyed by the success of an inaugural event last year, the Archdiocese of Omaha again this summer is organizing a youth conference at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kan.

And officials are hoping to build on the momentum generated after about 300 teenagers, as well as adults, priests and religious sisters last year joined Archbishop George J. Lucas for a faith-filled weekend of discussion, reflection, prayer and music.

Open to teens who will be high school freshmen this fall up to seniors who just graduated, the Benedictine College Youth Conference (BCYC) is set for July 18-20. With the theme "Sacred Encounter," officials will focus on teens meeting Christ in a "deep, personal way" through Scripture, the sacraments and relationships with others, said Jen Moser, coordinator of youth ministry for the archdiocese.

Last year, officials quickly organized the conference after learning that a national event in Springfield, Mo., had sold out, potentially disappointing about 300 teens in the archdiocese who had signed up to attend.

The archdiocesan conference was a hit, and this year officials are hoping to reach even more young people by adding Norfolk as an additional "hub" to Omaha and Columbus for pre-conference formation sessions similar to gatherings held last year and as a meeting point for transportation to and from the event.

In addition to a prayer session/meeting for students and parents, participants at each hub location will meet for three formation sessions, with each session focusing on one of the conference’s three points of emphasis for a sacred encounter with Christ.

The sessions help the adults and teens get to know one another and begin reviewing conference material, which allows them to maximize their time once they arrive at Benedictine, Moser said.

"It just deepens the entire experience of the conference," she said.

Also new are breakout sessions at the conference on topics such as perfectionism and competition for young women and responding to messages received in popular culture, for young women and young men, she said.

Breakout sessions on vocations also are scheduled, to be presented to young women by religious sisters and to young men by Father Paul Hoesing, director of vocations for the archdiocese.

Participants will be able to choose which breakout sessions to attend, allowing organizers to cover a broader number of topics and teens to focus on a particular subject most applicable to them, Moser said.

Teens also will take part in large- and small-group discussions, listen to speakers, enjoy live praise and worship music, attend Mass and adoration of the Eucharist and have opportunities for reconciliation, personal prayer and reflection.

Organizers decided to return to Benedictine in part because of the positive feedback from last year’s participants, Moser said. Teens and adults enjoyed the strong Catholic presence of Benedictine’s campus and the more intimate size of the gathering, which offered fewer distractions and the chance to get to know people better than at a national conference, which often features thousands of teens meeting in a large city, she said.

"Being in that environment keeps you mindful of why you are there and mindful of what the Lord wants you to receive," Moser said.

Archbishop Lucas will again attend the conference, celebrating Mass, leading Eucharistic adoration and talking to the teens who get to know him "as our shepherd," she said.

"His presence is really a highlight for the youth," Moser said.

Moser said officials are grateful for the archbishop’s presence, along with archdiocesan priests and religious sisters who will participate. Last year about 12 archdiocesan priests attended in a "powerful witness" to the faith, she said.

"Our priests care deeply about our youth, and they want to see them grow in intimacy with Christ and deepen their experience of the Catholic faith," Moser said.

Again this year, Father Michael Voithofer, associate pastor of St. Robert Bellarmine Parish in Omaha, will lead a band providing praise and worship music that was a highlight for participants at last year’s event, Moser said.

Registration is underway online and will continue until the formation sessions begin in June and July, Moser said.

Officials are hoping about 400 teens from the archdiocese will attend this year and benefit from the pilgrimage aspect of traveling to the conference, she said.

"It can shake you out of your normal existence and open you up to the Lord touching your heart in a deeper way," Moser said.



» Cost: $210 for youth and small group leaders; free for priests and religious.

» Register: Visit archomaha.org. On the left hand side of the page, click on "Youth Ministry" and "Benedictine College Youth Conference."

» More information: Visit archomaha.org or call Jen Moser, coordinator of youth ministry, at 402-557-5610, x2102.



Youth must register for one of three sites for formation sessions and departure:

» Columbus

Formation sessions: June 22, 29, July 13; 7-9:30 p.m. at a location to be determined

Coordinator: Belinda Keiter, 402-564-7151

» Norfolk

Formation sessions: June 22, 29, July 13; 7-9 p.m. at Sacred Heart Parish Center

Coordinator: Marilyn Kathol, 402-371-2621

» Omaha

Formation sessions: July 1, 8, 15; 7:30-10 p.m. at Christ the King Church

Coordinator: Kristine Prem, 402-812-9349




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