By Ken Downey | Correspondent
Whether attending the National Catholic Youth Conference for their first time or more, those in youth ministry agree it’s something to look forward to.
“The trips are fantastic; it’s a way for our teenagers to see the larger Catholic Church,” said Catherine Werner, youth ministry coordinator in St. Joseph Parish, Toms River. “It’s inspiring and encouraging; it’s a way for them to dig deeper into their faith but also realize that they’re not alone in their faith.
“I feel like a kid again, too, and it’s also inspiring for us adults. We get to see the young people who are on fire with their faith, and it’s very encouraging for us who are in youth ministry.”
Werner, who has been attending NCYC conferences since 1997, was one of about 40 teens and parents who gathered Oct. 26 in Donovan Catholic High School, Toms River, for an information session on the biennial conference. Twenty-five teens from the Diocese of Trenton will be attending the conference Nov. 16-18 in Indianapolis. They will be joined by more than 10 youth ministers, diocesan staff and chaperones.
Dan Waddington, diocesan director of Youth and Young Adult Ministries, who facilitated the information session, said those who attend NCYC can expect time for prayer, nationally renowned speakers, concerts, breakout discussions and more.
“It’s focused on all the different ways we are called as Catholics,” he said.
This year’s conference theme is “Called.”
Though the conference will be fun, Waddington said, “We want the kids to know it’s not just about the fun. It’s about the pilgrimage and the journey to be able to be closer to God and be connected to the bigger Church.”
Paul Xerri of St. Mary of the Lakes Parish, Medford, is attending his first NCYC.
“I’m looking forward to meeting new people and people who share the same Catholic belief that I do around the country,” the 17-year-old said.
Thomas Bouillon, 18, of St. Joan of Arc Parish, Marlton, will be taking part in his second trip. “The last trip was extremely fun. I was able to get closer to friends and God, and even get to know myself better.”
Barbara Arellano, 17, of St. Joseph Parish is attending her second NCYC. “It’s pretty cool when everyone’s together. Just meeting new people and exchanging things was great. My favorite things were the breakout discussions we had, and I’m looking forward to them again.”
The trip will also be the second for Bob Morris, youth ministry coordinator in St. Martha Parish, Point Pleasant.
“My first trip was awesome, I’ve always heard about it before I became a youth minister. It’s just a wonderful experience that the kids get so much out of,” Morris said. “It’s life-changing for them.”