Youths to attend national conference in person and virtually

Catholic youths from Ottumwa pose for a photo at the National Catholic Youth Conference in Indianapolis in 2019.

By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger

Youths and chaperones are gearing up for the biannual National Catholic Youth Conference (NCYC) in November. The Davenport Diocese delegation will have 291 youths, 90 adult chaperones and 10 diocesan team members attending in person in Indianapolis Nov. 18-21. At least eight parishes plan to attend the conference virtually this year.

In-person option

Parishes in Albia, Georgetown and Lovilia will send 28 youths and 8 chaperones, said Sharon Crall, pastoral associate/director of religious education at St. Mary Parish-Albia and pastoral associate at St. Patrick Parish-Georgetown. “This is up from last time (2019),” she said. Although she is not attending this year, she is an alternate if the need arises. “I’ll miss it.” Fundraisers help finance the trip, such as a fireworks spectacular raffle held last month. Youths from the Albia and Georgetown parishes and St. Peter Parish-Lovilia sold tickets, which were also available in local grocery stores. “All of our prizes were donated and we netted $5,254.21. The only cost we had was to print the tickets,” Crall said. Parishioners from all three parishes also “have been very generous to us.”


At St. James Parish in Washington, 23 youths and 5 adults registered to attend NCYC, said Samantha Brinning, the parish’s youth ministry coordinator. Fundraisers range from busing tables at weddings to cleanup at the county fair to plans for a fall breakfast. “We are definitely behind where we would have been pre-COVID, however, we have been fortunate to do the fundraising we have at this point,” Brinning said. “Our group is very excited to be able to attend NCYC and thankful for the diocese helping to make this happen.”

Parishes in West Point, Farmington, Houghton and St. Paul plan to send 9 youths and 4 adults.

“We feel in-person community, relationship building and spiritual formation are essential right now for our youth and families,” said Nathan Clark. He is the family and youth minister at St. Mary Parish-West Point, St. Boniface Parish-Farmington, St. John Parish-Houghton and St. James Parish-St. Paul. For fundraising, youths have partnered with Kim’s Confections and sold cookies and cupcakes. They plan an enchilada sale in August. “We are right on track with most youths having raised 80-90% so far.”

Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Bettendorf will have 22 youths, 7 adults and a clergy representative in attendance, said Brett Adams, the parish’s coordinator of evangelization and youth ministry. “We reached out to those that may be interested via a survey and after carefully considering the responses and our options before we made the decision to offer it in person,” he said.

At Our Lady of Victory Parish in Davenport, about 20 youths and 6 adults plan to attend. “We decided on the in-person option for a variety of reasons … first and foremost, parents and teens preferred it,” said Evan Brankin, the parish’s coordinator of confirmation and youth ministry. “Speaking very practically, people have become fatigued from constant ‘online’ or ‘virtual’ events and having another one would not have been attractive to many of our families.” He does not see how an online or virtual version of NCYC “could have the impact that we want — because it’s not just a conference, it’s a pilgrimage and retreat (albeit a hectic one).” Fundraising continued whenever possible during the pandemic.

St. Mary Parish in Oskaloosa will have 15 youths and 4 adults in attendance, said Thomas Leah, the parish’s director of faith formation. “We chose to go in person because the diocese allowed us to go and as long as there was a reasonable number of people interested in going I was open to participating. Right now, we are at roughly $6,000 for fundraising. Most of this has been through the generosity of parishioners.”

St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Davenport has 24 youths and 6 adults signed up, said Luke Ebener, the parish’s coordinator of youth and young adult ministry. Usually, 60-70 participants attend. He chose the in-person option “to give kids and adults an experience of the larger church that we’re a part of and to be able to get them away from their normal surroundings and familiarities to hopefully encounter Jesus in a new and life-giving way.”

Fundraisers have been under way, but most of the funds have been raised because of generous donors and the lower number of participants. “I am excited for the virtual option as I think it presents an opportunity for more youth and parents to get creative and still experience at least a little bit of what NCYC is and what it has to offer,” Ebener said.

Virtual option

Some parishes plan to offer “NCYC 2.0 Ablaze” virtually — gathering at the Highlander Hotel in Iowa City, said Michelle Montgomery, youth minister for St. Thomas More Parish-Coralville. Parishes joining Coralville include St. Mary Parish in Lone Tree, St. Alphonsus Parish in Mount Pleasant, St. Mary Parish in Oxford, and Holy Trinity Parish, Riverside, Wellman, Richmond; and St. Patrick in Iowa City.

“Our plans are to run NCYC 2.0 just like the schedule for in-person NCYC with breakout sessions, witness talks and much more.”

“After a very long discernment with my pastor and sending out a survey to parents and youth about attending, with the pandemic still not under control, we opted to not attend (in person),” Montgomery said. However, this was still running heavy on my heart about attending because I know what NCYC can do to help build/enhance youth and adults in their spirituality and to grow deeper in our rich Catholic faith. When I realized that we could still get a piece of NCYC live stream or virtual, I knew we had to do something to get youth to witness some of what NCYC has to offer.”

With permission from the pastor, Father Chuck Adam, Montgomery reached out to other parishes to build the experience. Each participating parish will have a role in NCYC 2.0 from witness talks and icebreakers to hospitality and adoration.

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