By Elizabeth Lowe
OCEAN CITY – The praise and worship music that 450 teens and adults alike sang at the Baltimore Youth Catholic Conference kept them singing – literally – after the music stopped.
Katie Stuempfle, a parishioner of Prince of Peace in Edgewood, had one of the songs she learned at the weekend-long retreat, known as BYCC, stuck in her head.
This year’s biennial conference was Nov. 16-18 at the Clarion Resort Fontainebleau Hotel on the Atlantic Ocean. The theme was Assemble, United in Christ. The “A” in assemble was for Avengers, a team of superheroes from Marvel Comics.
During the weekend, the youths braved chilly air and strong winds to pray the rosary on the beach, attend keynote presentations, workshops, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and Mass.
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Bayley Taylor, a senior at Mount de Sales Academy in Catonsville, parishioner of the Church of the Holy Apostles in Gambrills and a BYCC leadership member, returned to BYCC because of her experience in 2010.
“There’s a lot more youth out there in Baltimore that’s Catholic than I realized,” said Taylor, who added some days “it’s hard to live out your Catholic faith. It helps to know there are others out there.”
Keynote speaker Steve Angrisano wove games, songs and stories together, all to deepen participants’ faith.
“To be holy is to let Christ be real,” Angrisano said. “That is how Jesus changes the world.”
During the conference, Angrisano repeatedly said nothing happens by coincidence, only “Godincidence.”
“Everything you choose takes you closer to God or further away,” Angrisano said. “It does make a difference who we are and how we live. We cannot let what we experience here stay here. The world depends on it.”
Youths selected two of the five workshops to attend.
Father T. Austin Murphy, Jr., pastor of Our Lady of Hope, Dundalk, and St. Luke, Edgemere, led the workshop “Can you hear me now? Listing to God in a noisy world.”
“Silence is scary because we are so used to sound,” Father Murphy said to youths in a packed room. “You guys get so much input all the time. The silence is the tough part. We need to learn to listen.”
Father Murphy called silence a friend of God’s.
“We can embrace that silence,” he said. “Don’t be afraid of it.”
Father Murphy’s workshop resonated with Charlee McNeil, a parishioner of St. Mary in Hagerstown who attended BYCC in 2010.
“It’s (silence) really important,” said McNeil, 17. “We’re a very busy, active people. If I don’t take that quiet time, I’m not gaining much.”
Colleen Sisolak, youth minister at St. John the Evangelist in Hydes, was one of 75 people from Harford County parishes who traveled to Ocean City by school bus.
“I love seeing the enthusiasm of the young people,” Sisolak said. “It’s such positive peer pressure.”
To see part two of a photo slideshow, navigate the arrows below.
Jerome Cosby, a senior at Our Lady of Mount Carmel School in Essex, said BYCC made him “feel more connected with my faith.”
Similarly, sixteen-year-old Savannah McCarty-Gibson, a parishioner of St. Ignatius in Hickory left her second BYCC feeling “spiritually strong.”
Father Michael A. DeAscanis, director of the archdiocese’s vocation’s office, led adoration and concelebrated Mass with Paulist Father John Hurley, executive director of the archdiocesan office of evangelization.
In his homily, Father Hurley said “it is not easy being a disciple in this day and age and it wasn’t in Jesus’ time either.”
“Ask yourself ‘why are you here?’ It’s not by accident,” Father Hurley said. “It’s because you have chosen to be here. It’s the Holy Spirit that’s led us here … to experience the presence of God.”
Scott Miller, director of the archdiocese’s office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry, said “with a theme like Assemble, I hope young people remember that they need not go it alone in faith.”
“Their friends, their families and the church are all places where they can call upon each day so that they might grow in faith together,” Miller said.
Copyright (c) Nov. 19, 2012 CatholicReview.org