Day Two at the National Catholic Youth Conference
The day began at the Nationwide Arena a couple of blocks from the greater Columbus Convention Center. There over 20,000 students gathered for music, prayer, and a key note presentation by Tony Melendez, the guitarist/singer who performed for Pope John Paul II in 1987. Tony was born without arms and has become a worldwide sensation. I found the opening absolutely awe inspiring. The stage fit the theme of the conference ("Discover the Way") shaped like a ship with a cross on the bow. The music and prayer were very, very well planned and executed. To experience over 20,000 young people singing and praising Jesus moved me very deeply.
About 11:00 a.m. the group moved back to the Convention Center for the rest of the day. We celebrated the Eucharist at 11:45 a.m. Then the conference moved into concurrent sessions with what seemed to be endless milling of people from room to room. The food courts, corridors, and rooms were jammed. The "Port of Discovery" (vendors, games, and vocation exhibits) was overflowing all afternoon. And, what was really impressive to me, about 25 to 30 priests, myself included, heard confessions for two to three hours nonstop.
Costuming is a big part of the conference with each diocesan group wearing something distinctive. I had my picture taken with a couple of young ladies from Minnesota who were wearing moose ears and a contingent from the Archdiocese of Cincinnati wearing flying pig hats. And then there were the " cows" from southern Indiana--not just hats but full costumes.
I have also met up with a good number of friends at the conference including many fellow Vocation Directors as well as prior students from Walsh University who are now Youth Directors at their parishes. One young man, David Schunior from the Galveston-Houston Archdiocese, and I met when I was in Houston a few months ago working a local youth conference. It is good to see them all and to re-establish connection.