MASSACHUSETTS—“I urge you to be part of a community of faith that can sustain you and nurture your sense of purpose,” said Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston at the Steubenville East Conference held last weekend.
Around 3,000 teens gathered in Lowell, MA, for the conference, which included young people from St. Margaret Mary Alacoque and St. Joseph Parish in Shelton, St. Mark in Stratford, St. Ladislaus in Norwalk and other diocesan parishes.
Steubenville conferences are hosted by Franciscan University of Steubenville in partnership with Life Teen ministry and provide Catholic teens from around the country, and at multiple locations throughout, with the opportunity to gather together in Christ’s name.
“A life of faith is a life of purpose and a mission to bring fulfillment,” Cardinal O’Malley said to send the teens on their way with closing Mass on Sunday morning of the conference.
During his homily Cardinal O’Malley urged teens to consider the importance of community in living a life of faith
“In our connectedness to God and each other is where we find meaning of life,” he said.
“It was amazing to see an arena packed with people who love God and their Faith,” a participant commented.
Teens had the chance to hear influential speakers on a variety of topics, participate in group worship and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, attend Mass, receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation and share and reflect in a small group setting.
There were many different highlights of the weekend, one of them being the chance teens had to encounter Jesus during Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. “I’ve never seen so many people be so happy but so emotional during adoration. It was absolutely beautiful,” said Connor, a member of The Walk youth group from St. Margaret Mary Alacoque Parish in Shelton.
“I learned so much from all the different talks we heard. The speakers were able to connect with the audience in an entertaining way while still being able to send an important message,” another teen mentioned in reflection.
The theme of the weekend was Revealed, which was drawn from the following verse of Sacred Scripture: “In this way the love of God was revealed to us: God sent His only Son into the world so that we might have life through him” (1 John 4:9). Throughout the weekend teens were challenged to think about the way the Christ makes Himself known to them.
The host, Dr. Bob Rice, a professor at Franciscan University of Steubenville addressed the teens, “Let us let God surprise us, challenge us, call us…that we might know who He is.”
Participants heard talks on the real love of God, healthy relationships, God’s plan for their lives, and how to bring what they learned from the conference into their everyday lives. Teens were also able to split off into both men’s and women’s sessions to go deeper into what it means to be sons and daughters of God.
Teens learned about the importance of the Mass, and the need to be present in both the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Teens learned that God’s love reaches out to them no matter where they are and that they need not be afraid because they are not alone.
Notable speakers included Father John Parks, Lisa Cotter, David Calavitta, and Bob Lesnefsky; as well as worship music led by Jon Niven.
“It is important that Catholic teens have the opportunity to attend conferences like this,” an adult chaperone mentioned in reflection. “It is so rare that they are able to see that they are not alone in this journey of faith, that there are thousands of other Catholic teens out there that are looking for and wondering about and learning from the same things as they are.”
One week changed everything!
Leah Foito, a young woman entering 10th grade at Stratford High from the St. Mark Youth Group, attended LEAD week a five-day leadership and evangelization program that takes place before each Steubenville conference. In the passage below, she shares her impressions.
“Last week I had the blessing and privilege to go the LEAD (Leadership, Evangelization, and Discipleship) program. I went into the week with a very broken and weak faith. I was doubting God’s existence and didn’t think anything would change in a single week. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
During the week I met the most amazing teens from all over New England. Together we learned how to pray in a more meaningful way and how to spread God’s word across the world. Though adoration, I was able to rediscover my faith and return back to Catholicism with more faith than ever before. The instructors were four Franciscan University alumni, and taught us with unending compassion and support. Over the course of the week, our LEAD group became so connected by the grace of God, and I can proudly say that they’re becoming my best friends.
LEAD taught me how to love God to the fullest, and restored my faith in a way that makes me excited to pray everyday, and it’s something I look forward to. Through God’s grace I became one of His disciples, and I am ready to begin my new life in the ways of Christ. Steubenville created that opportunity for me right off the bat. I was able to spread the word of God to my friends from my home parish, and inspire some of them to attend LEAD next year.
The talks addressed relatable issues, such as relationships and self image. God’s presence was very apparent throughout the whole weekend, and I was able to worship Him, with my catholic friends from back home. We learned the value of having an open mind to God’s plan for all of us, and how we can prepare to be called to our vocations. I truly was able to believe again, especially in the church and in God himself, along with preparing myself for when He decides to reveal my vocation to me.
This trip was something I would truly repeat over and over again, and I will definitely keep going to Steubenville as I continue to get older, and wiser in my faith.”