by Kevin Molm, Director of the Office of Youth & Young Adult Ministry

On November 18-21, the Diocese of Helena, through the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry, lead a delegation of 140 young people and their youth ministers to the National Catholic Youth Conference (NCYC) in Indianapolis, IN, where they joined 11,000 other young Catholics from across the nation for 4 days of prayer, worship, catechesis, and fun. Our delegation included participants from parishes and schools from across Montana, including several from the Diocese of Great Falls-Billings. After a year of lockdowns and event cancellations, the fact that the conference actually happened was a moment of celebration for all of us.

The success of the event is measured not in terms of numbers of participants but in the movement of the Holy Spirit. The theme this year – Ablaze – was chosen because we want to set the hearts of young people ablaze for the Lord, and that is exactly what the Holy Spirit did.

“I never expected this to be such a spiritual experience. I kind of figured that it would be like a Catholic rock concert, with good music and speakers, but this has been a huge impact on my faith,” reflected one high school participant before returning to Montana. He continued, “I went to confession for the first time since I received my first Eucharist years ago.”

Praise the Lord! Sparked by this experience, our youth ministers embrace the opportunity to help this young person, and all others, to keep alive this flame of faith by pursuing the Lord in their daily lives, especially in the Sacraments.

The keynote speakers included some of the most popular witnesses to the faith, both lay and religious, such as Sr. Miriam James Heidland, Brian Greenfield, Chika Anyanwu, Noelle Garcia, Sarah Kroger, and Fr. Ajani Gibson. One of the highlights for our delegation was Friday night when we sat on the floor-level of the stadium during Eucharistic Adoration and heard an inspiring reflection from Fr. Leo Patalinghug. Papal Nuncio Archbishop Christophe Pierre shared a message directly from the Pope, and Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller challenged all of us to live our faith with courage when we return home.

Between general sessions, individuals participated in workshops, prayer experiences, and spent time in the Global Village interacting with Catholic ministries, organizations, and colleges (including our very own Carroll College!). Fr. Ken Fortney, from St. Charles parish in Whitefish, celebrated Mass for us and our Region 12 neighbors from the Pacific Northwest. We were honored to have Bp. Michael Warfel from the Diocese of Great Falls-Billings spend time with us throughout the event and to celebrate Mass with him, as well as 19 other (arch) bishops, and 250 other priests and deacons at the closing liturgy on Saturday night!

Historically, NCYC has happened every other year. In a surprise announcement, we found out that NCYC would be happening again next year in Long Beach, CA, on November 10-12, 2022. Mark your calendars now as the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry will be leading a delegation, because we delight in seeing the Holy Spirit set the hearts of our young people ablaze.