By EmmaLee Italia | Contributing Editor

“Kids are not too young to use their gifts to serve others. God gives each of us, no matter our age, unique gifts that he calls us to use.”

It is with this message in mind that Dan Waddington, director of the diocesan Department of Youth and Young Adult Ministries, hopes to encourage young people to attend this year’s Diocesan Youth Conference.

See what the DYC’s got brewing online: #BeGodsServant

“This is an exciting, fun day, filled with opportunities to gather as a young diocesan Church and grow in faith,” Waddington said. “It’s energy-charged, with some very powerful opportunities for growth and formation.”

The DYC, to be held from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Feb. 9 in Holy Cross Preparatory Academy, Delran, has set its theme “Servant” with the goal of drawing young people toward using their unique gifts to serve God and his Church.

This year, the DYC, which falls inside the Year of Youth decreed by Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., will make a distinct connection between the themes of January’s World Youth Day in Panama – “I am the servant of the Lord,” and the bishops’ 2018 Synod on “Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment” held in October in Rome.

“We’re being intentional about connecting the themes of DYC to what’s happening for youth in the universal Church,” said Waddington, who will emcee the event. “Because it’s inside the Year of Youth, we’re looking [for that to be] the driving force – to build on the Year of Youth goals and message.”

The daylong conference, open to eighth- through 12th-grade students, will include programs that focus on different aspects of being a servant of God: “Called to Serve,” “Hard to Serve” and “How to Serve.” In addition, breakout sessions will be broken down by gender, and into eighth grade and high school groups, allowing for discussions to be age-appropriate.

“[The talks] center on God’s gifts in our life and how he calls us to use those gifts to serve others in his name,” Waddington said. “A breakout session [will address] what it is about our culture, schools and families that make it hard to serve – what gets in the way of service and of hearing God’s call.”

Guest speakers include Franciscan Sister of the Renewal Mother Clare Matthias and Brian Greenfield, a nationally known Catholic evangelist and youth minister.

Mother Clare, installed in the Our Lady of Guadalupe Convent, Bronx, N.Y., will address students during the “Called to Serve” talk. Her community was established in 1988, and now has three convents in New York City, one in Atlantic City, one in Leeds, England, and another in Drogheda, Ireland. Their charisms focus on simplicity of living the Gospel, with special attention to both the poor and evangelization. A very youthful order, the acceptance age is from ages 21 to 35.

Greenfield has been speaking and leading retreats for 20 years, including being featured as a keynote speaker at the 2017 National Catholic Youth Conference. Born and raised in Washington, D.C., he attended Seton Hall University, South Orange, earning a bachelor’s degree in communications, and two master’s degrees in theology and education leadership. He also spent time discerning the religious life with the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, ultimately feeling called to marriage. He and his wife have two children.

Adoration and individual Confessions will take place after the programs. These are, Waddington said, “an opportunity to be face to face with Jesus, and to remove those roadblocks that are there … to listen for God’s call to service in an intentional way.”

A Eucharistic Procession will follow, taking participants to the Mass location with Bishop O’Connell, who will give the homily.

“Young people will be sent from Mass to go and serve,” Waddington said. “I hope that our young people … grow closer to God, have a greater understanding of how they are called to use God’s gifts and feel empowered to go and live it.”

Holy Cross Preparatory Academy is located at 5035 U.S. 130 South, Delran. For more information, contact Dan Waddington, 609-403-7140, dwaddi@dioceseoftrenton.org, or Jerry Wutkowski, 609-403-7182, gwutko@dioceseoftrenton.org.

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