Over 3,000 Catholics from all over the United States of America and beyond gathered together on December 6-8, 2018 at the Convention Center in Tampa, Florida for the biennial National Conference on Catholic Youth Ministry (NCCYM), organized by the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry (NFCYM).
The UkrainianCatholic Church was represented at the conference by Fr. Lubomyr Zhybak,Director of the Eparchial Youth Committee and pastor of Holy Trinity UkrainianCatholic Church in Youngstown, OH and St. Anne Ukrainian Catholic Church inAustintown, OH and Mr. Michael J. Levy, member of the Eparchial Youth Committeeand parishioner of St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church inPittsburgh, PA.
The theme of this year’s conference was “Unlock.” The conference began with an energetic, multi-cultural Holy Mass, presided over by Father Alejandro López-Cardinale, a diocesan priest from the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Caracas (Venezuela), who currently ministers in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston (USA), and concelebrated by Fr. Lubomyr Zhybak and other priests and deacons from various Roman Catholic dioceses. During his engaging homily, Father López-Cardinale, an architect by trade before he became a priest, encouraged the conference’s participants to help to build the lives of the young people on the solid foundation of faith, which is our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He asked that the youth ministry leaders remained focused on their mission of bringing Christ to the young Church.
The conference’s participants experienced a deeper understanding of gifts and challenges of Catholic youth ministry in the United States. The youth ministers were able to discover new ways of evangelization through the Eucharistic celebrations, availability of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, personal prayer, dynamic and engaging presentations, interactive workshops, personal sharing of youth ministry experiences, and fellowship. Biennial award presentations, networking luncheons, netsourcing sessions and specialized exhibits supplemented this powerful and valuable conference.
The keynote speakers this year included Bishop Frank Caggiano of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport, Connecticut; Bishop Nelson J. Perez of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Cleveland, Ohio; Father João Chagas (native of Brazil), the head of the youth section of the Vatican Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life; Sister Josephine Garrett from the order of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth (Texas); Mrs. Katie Prejean McGrady, an international Catholic speaker and author from Lake Charles, Louisiana; and Mrs. Julianne Stanz, a nationally acclaimed speaker, retreat leader, and consultant to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Commission on Catechesis and Evangelization from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Green Bay, Wisconsin. This year’s conference was moderated by Mr. Doug Tooke, the director of ministry with ODB Films as well as an adjunct staff member with Life Teen International, an international Catholic youth ministry organization based in the United States.
The keynote speakers, each in his and her own way, delivered to the attendees inspiring presentations focused on ways to unlock young people’s hearts and bring them closer to Jesus through “kerygma,” missionary discipleship, and personal witness.
On December 7, 2018, on the eve of the feast of the Immaculate Conception according to the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar, Bishop Frank Caggiano, in concelebration with the present priests and deacons, presided over a solemn Holy Mass.
The conference concluded with the Holy Mass, presided over by Bishop Gregory Parkes of the Roman Catholic Diocese of St. Petersburg, Florida, and concelebrated by the attending clergy.
“Based in Washington D.C., the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry (NFCYM) is a broad, internationally recognized leadership alliance for Catholic youth ministry. NFCYM sponsors the National Catholic Youth Conference (NCYC) and the National Conference on Catholic Youth Ministry (NCCYM). NFCYM also provides vision, leadership, and advocacy for the development of Catholic youth ministry and networking, training, and resources for youth ministry leaders” (Source: NFCYM).