25,000 Catholic young people from all over the United States met in Kansas City, Kansas from November 19-21, 2009, for the National Catholic Youth Conference. A group of about 30 were there from St. Mary’s Parish in Colts Neck, NJ.
I think I was the oldest youth at the conference, which is an offshoot of the world youth days begun under Pope John Paul II. It was a lively, spirited event, combining traditional Catholic things, like preaching,sacraments and devotions with modern technology the young use to communicate today. I missed a day because I visited one of our priests who lived nearby, but I was impressed by what I saw.
A workshop for parents by Chris Weber explaining how young people use technology today–Twitter, text messaging, Facebook, Internet– was especially helpful.
If you want to communicate with your kids, he said, get to know as much as you can about the new media. True, also, for priests and others who want to communicate with the next generation.
He recommended a book by Joseph Allen and Claudia Worrell Allen entitled Escaping the Endless Adolescence, (Random House, October, 2009).
He quoted someone saying that adolescents inhabit a subterranean world where adults are unwelcome. All you can do is sit at the top of the stairs and wait for them to talk to you as they go down or come up.
The best speakers at the event, in my opinion, were some teenagers who spoke to the young people at Sprint Center on Saturday morning about their own spiritual searching in simple fresh words. Is God sending young people to speak to that subterranean world?
Bishops and priests were there, but the main speakers for many of the events were laypeople. Maybe that says something too about who is going to speak to the next generation.
Honestly, some of the music was hard on my ears, but if these young people are the face of the future, I have hope for the days ahead.