Share this story

 | By Joan Ramm

CCFMM helps Midland students attend National Catholic Youth Conference

Four young men from Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish in Midland had a “Walk on Water” experience at the 2022 National Catholic Youth Conference last November in Long Beach, California. The conference theme, inspired by the story of Jesus calling Peter to come out onto the water despite being in the eye of a storm (Matt 14:29), encouraged youth to step out of their boats to deepen their faith and trust in God.

The three-day conference included talks by dynamic Catholic speakers, breakout sessions, praise and worship music, an interactive exhibit hall and opportunities for Mass, eucharistic adoration, communal prayer and the sacrament of reconciliation. The students’ trip was funded in part by a grant from the St. John Neumann Fund, managed by the Catholic Community Foundation of Mid-Michigan.

Kathy Russell, director of youth ministry at Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish, said the conference addressed a real need.

“In the 20 years that I have been involved with youth ministry, I have heard countless times how the youth are the future of the church. Youth want to be a part of the church— now!” she said.

The young men said the conference was impactful.

“NCYC is a great experience, and it shows what it means to praise God,” Dawson Lavender said. “On Friday, I was touched by a speaker named Paul in a breakout session. He told us about his brother’s passing and also how you should use prayer in your community. On the last day of the trip, I went to confession and this changed me mentally and physically. The priest made me look at God in a greater picture in my life.”

With more than 2,600 attendees, the youth could truly see how their Catholic community stretches beyond their parish.

“One of the best parts of NCYC is getting to travel and meet fellow Catholics … from all over the country to talk about our faith,” Alexander Kanar said. “There is a profound sense of community and belonging.”

“NCYC encapsulated the essence of what it means to be Catholic,” added Dan Schneider. “The nightly sessions were overflowing with jubilation for the Lord, the speakers were furious with passion and each day brought about a more mystically awesome revelation of the beauty of God.”

Takeaways from the conference included an emphasis on daily prayer, faith sharing and building community.

“I feel a lot closer to God and the people I came with,” Roman DeSantis said. “The speakers were all very good and I feel like I can love God more and show it better.”

The importance of faithful friendships and the sense of community are two aspects that will surely continue to positively impact all those who attended.

“We are not in this boat alone,” Kathy said. “We need friends who bring us closer to God and support us in our faith.”