Anonymous donor helps YA group attend conference


By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger

With the help of an anonymous donor, 13 young adults from the Iowa City area were able to experience the Encounter Steubenville Young Adult Conference in St. Charles, Mo., May 30-June 1.

Iowa City young adults who attended Encounter Steubenville Young Adult Conference in St. Charles, Mo., were, front, from left, Lindsay Vittetoe, Ellie Delgado, Kathryn Churchill, Michelle Churchill, Kelsey Steffen back, Elizabeth Drewelow, Lauren Binzer, Nathan Zimmerman, Joe Retek, Thomas Steffen, Jessica Franklin, Bob Heisdorffer, Cassidy LeClaire.

“I honestly don’t know if any of us would have gone (without the donation),” said Kathryn Churchill, 27. “At our age, we have a lot of expenses, whether from loans, starting a family, or buying a house. We don’t have a lot of money to spend on stuff. To have someone help us financially, that is huge.”

Originally, the young adults wanting to attend the conference each faced a $235 fee which included attendance, hotel room, and meals at the conference. The donor covered the entire fee for each attendee.


Churchill said the donor initially offered to cover the cost for 10 attendees, but when 13 showed interest, the donor offered to pay their way, too.

The three-day conference focused on placing young adult Catholics face to face in an environment where they could connect with God and each other more intimately. The conference featured speeches, fellowship, discussions, and worship led by young adults in the ministry field including priests, Sisters, and laypeople. The Iowa City group joined about 650 other young adults at the conference, which is offered annually by the Archdiocese of St. Louis and Franciscan University.

“The nice thing about the conference is that it hit different areas of our lives,” Churchill said. “Young adults” includes a wide range of college students, post-college students, married couples, and those in religious life. Each individual got what they needed.”

Bob Heisdorffer, 32, attended the conference as someone who has been trying to figure out his path in life, and whether or not to go back to college. For him, a session about discerning God’s will was particularly helpful.

“(Speaker) Father Chris Martin said, ‘Discernment is difficult, but God is not thwarted if you are not exactly where he planned for you to be.’ He compared God’s hand in our lives to the GPS devices that we use today. God can recalculate the route and use the people and opportunities, the roads in front of us right now, to take us where he wants us to go,” Heisdorffer said. “I found this talk related to my experience.”

Churchill said she found encouragement watching her younger sister, Michelle, interact with young people who are excited about being Catholic. “I wanted her to experience something like this, where young adults can have a lot of fun and have a lot of faith.”

She added that opportunities for young adults to experience fellowship and faith encouragement — like the conference — can be difficult to find, and that young adults are not often a focus in parishes. “Having people donate money (to help us grow in our faith) shows that there are people in the community that support us.”

Heisdorffer believes that “the generosity we have been shown and the fruits of this conference will be shown in our lives.”

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