NCYC continues to inspire young Abingdon parishioner

Isabel Sans, right, pauses at the National Catholic Youth Conference in Indianapolis with her sister, Isabel, left, and their mother, Ashley. (Courtesy Diane Lewis/St. Francis de Sales Parish)

Two weeks after returning from the National Catholic Youth Conference, Isabel Sans remains moved by the spirit she encountered in Indianapolis, and not just from 20,000 like-minded pilgrims.

The Archdiocese of Baltimore sent 137 young people and chaperones to the biennial gathering. Sans was part of an unusually strong contingent from St. Francis de Sales in Abingdon, which sent 16 young people and eight chaperones, including Diane Lewis, its director of youth ministry.

It was the second NCYC experience for Sans, a junior in the IB program at Edgewood High School who just turned 17. She noted how NCYC grew her even closer to St. Joan of Arc, her confirmation saint, whose image she carries on a necklace.

“It’s an anchor, a reminder that I’m not alone,” Sans told the Review in an email exchange. “Especially after the conference, I have more faith that there’s a spirit behind it. I learned at the conference that St. Francis de Sales (patron of her parish) is the patron saint of Catholic writers. Which is really funny, because as much as I’m hesitant to admit it, I love writing.”

That was apparent on the bus ride home from NCYC, which had a concluding Mass Nov. 23 at Lucas Oil Stadium. She wrote a lengthy reflection that noted “how many times groups of kids started singing a song only to have 100 others jump in,” and the instantaneous reverence at the start of eucharistic adoration, when the house band’s rendition of “Lord, I Need You,” moved her to tears.

Her reflection concluded:

“I can’t describe NCYC. There are some things language just isn’t built for…. The conference is something musical, a heavy baseline pumping through your chest and a melody high and clear over your head. It’s a cheer that won’t die, the radiant positivity that builds up in your chest until you shine like the sun. It’s loving hard and fast, accidentally catching someone’s eye and becoming fast friends. It’s all the colors of the rainbow at once; it’s Spanish and English and a hundred other ways to give praise. It leaves the taste of sugar on your tongue and the echo of something great in your ear. … It’s a challenge to us as young people, to demonstrate our faith beyond the doors of our churches …”

The musical aspect resonates with Sans, part of the youth choir at St. Francis de Sales run by Danny Cajigas.

NCYC was a bit of a family affair for Sans, as the St. Francis de Sales crew included her sister, Isabel, and their mother, Ashley. Sans is well acquainted with the universal church, as her father immigrated to the U.S. from Spain. She was born and baptized in Dallas, and a young child when her family relocated to Harford County.

Click here for more stories on the NCYC.


Email Paul McMullen at

Paul McMullen

Paul McMullen

Paul McMullen has served as the managing editor of the Catholic Review since 2008.

The author of two books, Paul has been involved in local media since age 12, when he began delivering The News American to 80 homes in his neighborhood. He began his journalism career with the Capital-Gazette Newspapers in Anne Arundel County, and spent more than 25 years as a sports writer for The Sun in Baltimore. His favorite writing assignments have included the Summer Olympics in Australia and Greece, the Archdiocese of Baltimore’s response to the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, and “Feet for Francis,” a 2015 walking pilgrimage from the Baltimore Basilica to Philadelphia to see Pope Francis.