More than 30 teens representing four Diocese of Trenton parishes recently returned from Indianapolis after attending the biennial National Catholic Youth Conference, where they joined more than 13,000 young Catholics from around the country for a three-day program that included speakers, Mass, Eucharistic Adoration, music, worship and interactive exhibits.
“NCYC offers participants an opportunity to have a true encounter experience with the Lord as well as connect with thousands of other young people who share in our Catholic faith and beliefs,” said Dan Waddington, diocesan director of Youth and Young Adult Ministries. “The amount of enthusiasm and excitement that is shared for living our faith, combined with the powerful prayer and sacramental experiences, can be transformative for all who participate.
“Participants I spoke with told me how powerful the experience was and how they wished it didn't have to end. They said it helped them grow deeper in their faith and for some to feel closer to God than they ever have before,” he said.
‘An outpour of my faith’
One teen who found it transformative was Aniela Adamski, 15, a sophomore at Allentown High School and a member of St. Isidore the Farmer Parish, New Egypt. She said her experience at the conference “was beyond (what) words can describe.”
“It was so fulfilling and incredible to have an outpour of my faith in just one weekend,” she said. “I loved the faith everyone shared while also having fun.”
Adamski said she has fond memories of the “jam sessions to great Christian songs,” the trading of hats and pins with other attendees, and the chance to meet other Catholic teens.
“On a deeper level, I got to explore my faith through different breakout sessions, go to confession, experience Adoration at the stadium, and attend Mass with thousands of other people,” she said.
Adamski said she sometimes has found it difficult to relate to other teens because of her faith.
“When people were having sleepovers over the weekend, I would be at Mass on Sunday morning. Although there was nothing wrong with that, I felt left out,” she said. “Going to NCYC and seeing thousands of teens who share a common belief with me as a Catholic was so impactful and even emotional. I was able to meet people from many different states, and I felt safe talking to them. I didn’t have to worry about being judged for what I said, and it really just brought me to remember what brought us all here, wanting to grow closer to our faith.”
An opportunity for faith with peers
Waddington said experiences like this are important for young Catholics.
“These experiences are so important because they offer our young people an opportunity to experience church and our faith with peers on a level that they never have before. It is fun, interactive, motivating, supportive, and most importantly a potential encounter opportunity with Christ that can impact their lives in a powerful way,” said Waddington. “I truly hope that the impact of this experience for those who attended will spread in their parishes, and we can build an even larger delegations in the future.”
This year’s delegation to the Nov. 16-18 event was 31 strong and included teens from St. Isidore the Farmer; St. Aloysius Parish, Jackson; St. Joan of Arc Parish, Marlton; and St. Mary of the Lakes Parish, Medford. Trenton teens missed the 2021 gathering due to the pandemic; the next NCYC will be in Indianapolis Nov. 20-22, 2025.
“They hear from national-level speakers and attend several workshops, all aimed at helping them to deepen their faith. Young people come home fired up for their faith, with a deeper relationship with God, feeling like they are truly connected to our Church, and often can infuse excitement in their home youth groups and parishes,” said Waddington.