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Nativity Parish, Longwood youth and leaders form the "I" in one Indy sculptures around Indianapolis while attending the NCYC. 

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. |  Youth from six parishes around the Diocese of Orlando communed in the love of God and fellowship at the National Catholic Youth Conference (NCYC) in Indianapolis, Nov. 18-20.

NCYC gathers U.S. Catholic youths to listen to artists, speakers and experiences in the hopes of transforming their lives. The event was planned by the National Federation of Catholic Youth Ministry. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, there was more conisderations to deliberate, from safety measures to deciding whether the event would happen at all.

This year’s theme was Ablaze/Enciende el fuego. Just as Acts 2 tells of the coming of the Holy Spirit, youth leader Jessica Smith of Epiphany Parish in Port Orange said, “My teens were set ablaze with the Holy Spirit and are so excited to bring it all back home.”

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Teens find friendship and fellowship through the exchange of hats. This teen met 16 people before finding someone to trade hats with her. 

Between Mass, Eucharistic Adoration, and various activities, teens had a chance to exchange hats. Traditionally, youth from each diocese wear hats representing their parish. Youth from Epiphany wore crowns and palm tree hats. And Smith added the crazier the hat the better. 

Hats ranged from race cars for groups from Indiana, and Kentucky Fried Chicken buckets for those hailing from Kentucky. Some youth wore traffic cone hats. 

Exchanging hats encouraged fellowship and worked as an icebreaker for the teens. Smith kept extra hats in the youth room “as reminders to encounter others in the Body of Christ every day, and that those encounters can be joyful.”

Smith said NCYC is a priority in Epiphany’s youth program because, “They witness in tangible ways that they are a part of something real and they are very needed in the Catholic Church. We go so they are nourished, and then come back home to share what they’ve learned and grow as missionary disciples.”

For Sebastian S., seeing 11,000 youth all praying, worshipping and sharing the faith was a memorable experience. 

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Youth of Nativity Parish in Longwood stand outside Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis during the National Catholic Youth Conference. 

“I have always felt that I belonged at Epiphany. And then I come to NCYC and I realized I belong to something even bigger. And that never leaves me,” he said.

Listening to a presentation by Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of San Antonio meant a lot to teen participant Sofía S. “(W)hen the Archbishop said that we are the ‘now’ of the Church, not the future, it reminded me that we can’t wait to do big things in our faith. We can do them right now.”

Father Karl Bergin, parochial administrator of Epiphany Parish, attended the conference with teens from his parish. 

“Seeing these young people together has been absolutely incredible,” he said. “I can see seeds being planted and growing right in front of us, and when we get back home to our parish, they’re just going to really blossom.”

Speakers used their time to empower the teens gathered. In the middle of one of his songs that rocked Lucas Oil Stadium Nov. 18, Grammy-award winning singer Lecrae  spoke directly to the nearly 11,000 youths gathered. 

“God wants to use you in this stage of your life now,” he said. “Use that passion to change the world for the Lord. Go crazy for the Lord now, and go crazy for Him for the rest of your life.”  

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