When Katie Lutz told some of her friends at Franklin High School in Reisterstown she was taking a day off to attend the National Catholic Youth Conference in Columbus, Ohio, they looked at her as though she had sprung a third arm.
“People didn’t know what to say,” the 14-year-old parishioner of Sacred Heart, Glyndon, remembered with a laugh. “They didn’t understand. I’m going because I want to grow in my faith.”
Katie was one of 400 young people from throughout the Archdiocese of Baltimore who attended the NCYC Nov. 8-11. Traveling by six buses, they first gathered at Bishop Walsh School in Cumberland Nov. 8 to begin their venture with a Mass celebrated by Bishop W. Francis Malooly, western vicar. High school students from Bishop Walsh also participated in the opening liturgy – swelling the congregation to more than 600 enthusiastic young people.
“It’s great to see everyone come together,” said Stephanie Kalbaugh, a 15-year-old parishioner of Ss. Peter and Paul, Cumberland. “It lets you know that you’re not alone in your walk with God.”
Many young people are afraid to get excited about their faith because they fear how others will look at them, according to Jocelyn Daniels, a 16-year-old parishioner of St. John, Hydes. Seeing young people excited about their faith can inspire others, she said.
“If people weren’t being judged for practicing their faith, I think more would go to church,” she said.
Sean Palmateer, a 16-year-old parishioner of Our Lady of the Chesapeake in Lake Shore, said one of the reasons he participated in the youth conference was to strengthen his resolve. He sometimes gets discouraged when peers use the Lord’s name in vain.
“I really don’t like it,” he said. “Standing up against it is difficult. I’m hoping to gain some courage to do it.”
In his homily, Bishop Malooly read excerpts from letters written to him by young people. He commended them for embracing their faith.
“Jesus says he wants us to walk with him,” said Bishop Malooly. “If we’re going to discover the way, we have to love one another. This weekend is a time to discover our love for Christ in the faces of those traveling with you to Columbus.”