Hello! It’s Donna Salogar, Campus Minister at the Shrine of the Little Flower Catholic High School in Royal Oak in Michigan. Over the years, I have witnessed the many fruits of bringing a group to NCYC. One of the special things about these trips is the opportunity for students to have an experience outside of the classroom and in the context of faith with their fellow classmates. I am excited to share with you my experience as a high school campus minister bringing students to NCYC and hope you can be inspired to bring your own students.
Why Should You Attend NCYC?
First, NCYC, through penance, helps you get to heaven! Teasing aside, NCYC is one of the most unique experiences for students at school or in a youth group. By unique, I mean, they probably have never experienced such a large gathering of peers coming together to connect with their faith in a fun but reverent atmosphere including many priests and religious who are willing to walk amongst teens. Teens will encounter adults who share profound witness of the faith as chaperones, speakers, and entertainers.
Teens usually will come with certain expectations and reasons for going but in the end, God miraculously speaks to each one of them in a unique way. What they often take away from NCYC is often not what they thought. They come to realize the possibility of a true Christian community and a lived faith that radiates joy. Even if for a brief time, they discover they are deeply affected by this experience and will desire this Christian community in the future.
What are the benefits for attending?
There are probably more benefits than I will mention here because groups have similar but different experiences while at NCYC. I have experienced the following benefits with my groups:
Community Building:This happens between teens, adults and teens, and adults. Our group takes a significant number of parents, staff, and faculty from the school along with the youth minister and youth ministry volunteers to NCYC. It is a wonderful opportunity for both our school and church to dialogue together and build community.
Peer Ministry:Some of our teens are members of both the school and church. They help bridge the two communities together, especially teens that are only part of the youth ministry at the church. Students also get to walk with others who are not part of their grade fostering a culture of mentorship (upperclassmen and underclassmen) and friendship.
Catholic Identity: NCYC has reinforced our Catholic Identity by building a community of prayer and preparing for the conference mentally and spiritually. Many young people come back with a renewed fervor to communal prayer and the sacraments (Reconciliation and Eucharist).
Faith Formation: Breakout and general session messages are reinforcements of all the students have been taught throughout their lives; for teens that have not gone to Catholic school, it is sometimes new to them. Both groups learn something about themselves and their faith. Everybody begins somewhere different so trust that God will be present and meet them on the journey.
Preparation: Preparation is part of the process. The better you do it the more benefits you will reap from the work. Teens and adults will be more receptive to the experiences if they prayed together, had small faith discussions, shared expectations of the conference, and were familiar with the conference prior to attending. During the conference, take time to end each day with discussion and prayer debriefing the day’s content.
Vocation: I mentioned earlier the availability of priests and other religious to the youth; the presence of religious life and clergy can be an inspiration for future vocations. Teens are usually interested and curious about these men and women. NCYC gives them opportunities to interact with these characters from different walks of life, many of which are young and relatable to teens. I have heard about many positive encounters from teens with priests playing games, singing, dancing, and having discussions. This shows our teens the tangible Church where holiness can be found in everyday people.
Seeking Community: After NCYC, students return home and are more open to praying with other teens and forming small groups. At our Kairos retreats, students who attended NCYC are more receptive and enjoy the retreat experience more. They also apply to be senior leaders with a desire to share their journey of faith. We are hoping to go to World Youth Day and NCYC is one of the best preparatory experiences for teens who may be attending World Youth Day.
A Last Note
Don’t get too worried about the number of teens who are interested in going. If you take a few, they will be your best advertisement for the next NCYC. A smaller group who is excited to go and comes back pumped up for their faith is better than having a large group who isn’t prepared or willing to open themselves up to the experience.