By Jen DeCoster
“It is that the works of God might be made visible through him.” (John 9:5) The opening keynote speaker, Andy Marso referenced the Scripture passage on the “Man born Blind” when sharing his journey of surviving bacterial meningitis with the high school students attending the Kansas City Youth Conference (KCYC).
300 teens and chaperones attended KCYC on November 19-20, Christ the King Weekend. KCYC was held at the Muehlbach Hotel in Downtown. Michael Nations, the Director of Youth Ministry said, “The mission of KCYC is to assist parishes in offering young people an encounter with Jesus Christ in word and Sacrament, a chance to respond to the Gospel message, and to share in Christ’s mission.”
Jessica Dobbs from St. Charles Borromeo said, “I attended KCYC because it would be a great experience to go to and learn more about the Holy Trinity and the Holy Family. Attending KCYC helped me to understand the Year of Mercy more and why it was important.”
“I thought it would be really informational for getting confirmed in the Church,” said Ethan Rankin from St. Mary’s in Higginsville.
Immaculata High School student, Aubrie Penfield said, “I attended KCYC because I knew that being a semi-new Catholic there was so much for me to understand and learn, and this seemed like the perfect way. It truly delivered. During my fourth breakout session, I truly understood that Jesus walked the Earth; there is no possible way that the Bible isn’t true. Something inside me clicked, and right then and there I just knew.”
In his keynote, Marso shared how his attitude during recovery moved from “Why me?” to “Why not me?” He saw his family grow closer while they worked together to help Marso relearn how to take care of himself. He came to understand his suffering through the eyes of the Beatitudes in Matthew 5: “Blessed are the Meek and Blessed are the Merciful.” Marso learned that sometimes we have to suffer in order to make the world a better place. He said, “Suffering gracefully glorifies God and gives others a chance to help.”
This year’s theme focused on two specific Beatitudes- “Blessed are the Meek and Blessed are the Merciful.” “The Beatitudes challenge us to see things as God sees them, to value what God values, and the supreme blessedness that we can attain. In a culture that makes the Catholic Church seem completely out of touch with reality, the Beatitudes can help us understand how we will attain our heavenly inheritance that is given to us through Jesus,” said Nations.
After lunch, participants attended four rounds of Breakout Sessions with 10 local speakers. Each round featured a speaker’s personal testimony, a catechetical talk on Mary or participants could visit the Expo Center to hear a talk from a Religious Order, shop at local vendor’s tables or spend quiet time in the Chapel.
Mitch Morse, the starting Center for the Kansas City Chiefs, spoke to the teens in the first breakout session on how to balance sports with their faith life. Morse advised the teens, “Let your faith guide you, don’t stop letting your faith grow and do the right thing. I’m growing in my faith and loving it.”
Mary Trapp from St. Francis Xavier said, “Mary and the Eucharist stood out to me because I learned how to know Christ in a different way.”
Saturday evening’s session began with a candlelight procession in the streets of downtown to the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. At the Cathedral, participants had the opportunity to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation and walk through the Holy Door of Mercy sixteen hours before the Mass for the closing of the Holy Door.
“My favorite part of KCYC was the Adoration of the Blessed Eucharist and the Confession I had. I felt Jesus Christ even though He might not have spoken in a loud, booming voice, he spoke to me in a soft way,” said Claudia Kammerer from Our Lady of Guadalupe.
After the procession and Reconciliation, the evening session continued with a talk from musician, Emily Wilson.
“I was especially excited to see Emily Wilson as a keynote speaker because I’ve seen her on YouTube before and instantly connected to her authenticity and the beauty of her soul,” said Olivia DiMaggio from St. Gabriel.
Wilson encouraged the teens to look at their identity and answer the question “Who are you?” She helped them to see the difference between what the culture is saying and what God created them to do. Emily shared her personal experience of how she came to choose and love her faith when faced with the challenge of choosing faith or friendships.
A Parent Session given by the host, Chris Padgett, was held on the second day of KCYC. “He said we are all broken in some capacity. Even if we had great parents growing up, a great marriage and our kids seem like they are healthy and doing well, we are all sinners. The reality in this world is that most of us bring more than that to the table. As parents we need to do our best to stay faithful, try to live more prayerful lives, raise our children as best as we possibly can with our Church communities at the forefront, and as difficult as it is, not get caught up in worldly matters,” said St. Gabriel Youth Minister, Diane Pickert.
During the Parent Session, the teens attended talks by musicians Emily Wilson and Andrew Laubacher. “One of my teens said that it was the first time she had heard a guy talking about how to expect more from a relationship. I think it was exciting for her to learn that there are guys with high standards out there,” said Jess Ast, Youth Minister from St. Matthew Apostle.
The teens and their families participated in the Corporal Works of Mercy by donating individual snack items, bottled water, blankets and Bibles. They visited the Expo Center to make superhero capes for children in hospitals and to adopt an unborn baby or pray for someone who had passed away. A collection was taken up at Mass for future KCYC Scholarships. These items were placed on the Altar at the Closing Mass. The conference concluded with Mass for the participants and their families to celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King with KCYC Chaplain, Father Bob Stone.
“Meekness is often thought of as some kind of weakness yet that is the opposite; meekness implies an openness to allow God to act through us, particularly at those times which might lead us to sin. We know the power of God and surrender ourselves to his will so that we are able to play a role in the divine plan. Meekness allows or implies harnessed strength not a weakness. It is through this meekness that God can empower us into Mercy,” said Nations.
Raymond Cisneros, chaperone from St. Matthew Apostle said, “I have seen the teens enjoying themselves. I have seen them in a different, more personal way than at youth group. I can see that they have a faith foundation,” he continued, “I have learned to listen to the Holy Spirit and put fear behind and challenge myself to do what the Holy Spirit is asking.”
As they returned home, the participants received a skeleton key as a reminder that even though the Year of Mercy was coming to an end, they could still open the “door to mercy.”
“I’m going to invite Jesus into more places of my life. Often times I leave him when I am around some people, but not now that I’ve experienced God’s love and mercy so deeply. I’m going to bring him into my life and share him with others,” said Julia Stolfus from Our Lady of Guadalupe.