Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Favorite things about NCYC. Issue No 3

This last weekend was my forth National Catholic Youth Conference I've been to.   In 2009 in Kansas City, I posted a blog called "Fourteen Amazing Things About NCYC."   I wrote another after the 2011 NCYC in Indianapolis called, "Fifteen Amazing Things About NCYC, 2011."  I figured I should continue the trend so here are my "Top Ten Favorite Things About NCYC 2013."  I should note---the first two editions are more generalized articles about NCYC that could be used for almost every year.  For example, the music, the speakers, mass, confession---those things are fantastic every year and could be listed year after year.   This list seems to be more specific about the 2013 NCYC and even more to my experience specifically.

1. Being able to spend four quality days with my daughter, Emma.  She is 18 and was with me in 2011.  But who knows how many opportunities for quality time like this we will have.  She will be going to college next year so she is growing up.   

2.  This year was more relaxed.  We didn't go with a parish.  Due to circumstances, we went with a family group of five kids and four parents.  So the only person I was responsible for was Emma and since she is 18 I didn't have to worry about her every moment.  (I've very grateful that they were able to make this family group happen, by the way)

3.   This year seemed to run more smoothly in my opinion.  I'm sure it helped that it was the second year they've done it at Lucas Oil Stadium and the Indiana Convention Center.

4. The mega sessions were in held in much bigger venues it seemed.  We weren't able to make one session because it was full but we were able to go across the hall and see Mike Patin in a mega session and there probably a couple thousand people already in the hall but we were able to slip in and have plenty of space. There were also able to see Mark Hart and the comedy show when in years past they were full. 

5. They opened up seating in Lucas Oil Stadium which meant you didn't have to stand in line waiting for the doors to open in order to get seats.  We were able to enter well into to warm up sessions and still find seats, although it probably helped we only had a group of nine. 

6.  I felt the general sessions were a lot smoother and never seemed to drag at all.  Sure, not everything caught my attention but you can't please everyone all the time.  Jesse Manibusan was wonderful as emcee.  He did his job very well and let the magic happen.  

7. Matt Maher.   He was the opening night key note and one of my favorite musical artists.  He has been at NCYC before but this was the first time I had seen him. He apologized and said he voice was horrible but I thought it was great.  Probably one of my favorite sessions. 

8.  The plane.  This was the first year we flew and let me tell you what---an hour and a half flight on Southwest is much better than a 10 hour bus ride especially when that 10 hour ride has turned into 24 when the bus breaks down and you have to spend the night in a cruddy motel off the highway. 

9. The comedy show.  This is the first year I've made it to the comedy show and I had a blast.  Judy McDonald had me in stitches (with the dogma joke especially) .  I saw some of my favorite acts like Popple and I saw a couple of new ones I'd never seen before like Chris Padgett.

10.  Probably my favorite thing about NCYC 2013 was getting to meet a ton of people I look up to.  I got to touch base with Mark Hart--who I've met before.  I met Lino Rulli and had him sign my book "Saint." And one of the kids from my group got to be on The Busted Halo Show!

The next NCYC will be in 2015 again in Indianapolis.  I don't know if my son will be going but I am hopeful to be able to find some way to be there--either by tagging along with another group or maybe leading my own again.    If you will be in high school in 2015, or have a kid who will be in high school in 2015---I highly encourage you to be there.  

Monday, November 25, 2013

Thoughts on NCYC

I spent this weekend with my oldest daughter in Indianapolis for the National Catholic Youth Conference  (NCYC).   It was my forth NCYC and I always have a blast.  I've always encouraged all high schoolers to go when they have a chance.   But it's not just for the kids.  I've always gotten something out of them.

Sunday morning as I was getting ready to fly home, I received a text from a friend who is a youth minister with another parish.  She asked me how my NCYC went and what I had learned.  I replied that I had a great time but that I hadn't really learned anything.  I never had a great "ah-HA!" moment in any of my sessions.  

She then put me on the spot.  She said, "God gave you something to learn .... What was it?? I expect an answer by 5pm today!"  So I told her I would think about it on my flight. 

So what did I learn?   After some thought and prayer, I realized that I may not have learned anything, I was reminded that saints come in all different shapes and sizes.  You don't have to be straight laced and stuffy and all holier than thou.  I've realized that even someone as odd and peculiar as I am are to be saints.     

I met a ton of great people this weekend.  Many were from The Catholic Channel on Sirius/XM satellite radio.  I met Mark Hart (who I really look up to), Fr Dave and Brett from the Busted Halo Show and Lino Rulli from The Catholic Guy Show (a show I've listened to for years and enjoy a lot.)   They were all great.  Very warm, funny and caring.  And they all have dedicated their lives to serving God. 
Brett Siddell, Fr Dave and I
Lino Rulli and I

But that's not all you get at NCYC.  The whole experience is about letting your hair down, being fun, and goofy, yelling and having fun,  all while experiencing God.  There are teens in goofy hats and bright shirts and right next to them are nuns and brothers, priests, other religious all in their habits, robes and cloaks.  There are even several bishops around. (One of my favorite signs was one challenging you to play Bishop Paprocki at air hockey and win his book)

Then I started thinking about all the other Catholic figures I've met and been fortunate to see them out if the office when they could be more sociable.  They've always been warm, funny and caring. 

Next I started to think about all of the "professional" Catholics God has put in my life.  I've made many friends in Youth Ministry.  People who not only led me into youth ministry and helped it become one of my passions but who have helped me greatly spiritually.  And some who, ironically, I probably wouldn't have hung out with outside of a church setting.  

What do they all have in common--- they are nice normal people who aren't afraid of allowing their selves to be out there.   They can be goofy, and fun.  They aren't all Ned Flanderesk or pious and self righteous.  They are flawed individuals who have dedicated their lives to pleasing God. 

And that's me.  I'm goofy.   I'm a dork.  But I'm not afraid to put myself out there and I want to be pleasing to God and help teens realize that God loves them.  

So what did I learn at NCYC????  Well, I've known for awhile that we are called to holiness and sainthood.  But after meeting and experiencing all of these great, holy people---I realized that God EXPECTS me to be a saint.   Despite all of my flaws and dirt, He keeps putting these people in my life to steer me towards Him.  

My hope is that I make Him happy and help others realize the same thing.