Hundreds attend third annual event hosted by Cleveland YCP chapter
More than 450 people from across the country arrived Sept. 7 on the campus of St. Ignatius High School in Cleveland for the third annual Young Catholic Professionals Conference. YCP is a national organization with local chapters across the United States. It encourages young adults working in various professions to work in witness for Christ. This is the first time the event took place outside of Dallas, Texas, where the organization was founded in 2010. Cleveland’s YCP chapter learned in January that it had been chosen from among 18 other local chapters to host the three-day event.
The 2018 annual conference, titled “Mary, Star of Hope,” celebrated the feast of the birth of the Blessed Mother. Through Mass, keynote speakers and workshop sessions, the conference inspired attendees to pursue a stronger devotion to Mary.
Highlights from the inspirational weekend are recapped below.
Opening Mass (Friday, Sept. 7)
A steady stream of people crossed Lorain Avenue from St. Ignatius’ Breen Center toward St. Mary of the Assumption Chapel on the high school campus as conference-goers made their way to the opening Mass, which was celebrated by Cleveland Bishop Nelson J. Perez. His homily reflected on Mary as the sign of grace. “Faith is having the conviction of what we cannot see,” the bishop explained as he described the night sky and how at times all that we can see are stars. “Throughout our lives it is in moments of darkness that we reveal the star of faith. ‘Mary Star of Hope,’ the theme of the conference and our reading in the Gospel of Luke, calls us to be in a constant state of growth during the happy and the difficult times. In the light and in the dark we may see the sign of grace, our Mary, Star of Hope,” he said. The bishop challenged conference attendees to ask themselves, “What grace do you seek?” He encouraged them to examine what is going on in their lives and to pray that Mary intercedes to help bring grace over it.
Evening keynote address by Bishop Nelson J. Perez (Friday, Sept. 7)
Following Mass, attendees enjoyed an outdoor reception where they were greeted by Bishop Perez and members of YCP national office and Cleveland Chapter. After the reception, the bishop gave the conference keynote address, “Am I Not Your Mother?” Building off of his homily, he outlined how Mary is the first model of discipleship. “We tend to dehumanize her,” he explained. “But in her encounter with the angel Gabriel, she was filled with fear, just like any of us in this room would initially be. However, her faith-filled devotion and obedience keeps her grounded as Gabriel proclaims ‘nothing will be impossible for God.”’ (Luke 1:37) The bishop’s address recounted moments in the Bible throughout Mary’s life when she remembered Gabriel’s words and remained rooted in her faith. “Ask for her intercession. It is a simple way of asking for help,” he told the group.
Saturday plenary by EWTN’s Teresa Tomeo (Saturday, Sept 8)
Teresa Tomeo is a syndicated Catholic talk show host for EWTN’s “The Catholic View for Women,” a correspondent for Our Sunday Visitor, a national Catholic newspaper, and an author.
Her talk was titled “Mary and the Three R’s of Faith: Reflect, Rejoice and Respond.” Through personal stories, Tomeo described how at times she thought that God’s timing was inconvenient for her secular life. “My faith existed only on Sundays and over time, I grew closer to Mary as I’d reach out crying, ‘Mary help me in my hard times,’” she said. As Tomeo became more aware of practicing her faith every day, she began to see the beauty and power of Mary. “Her strength is the total submission to God,” she said. “You cannot move unless you constantly submit to God. And until I said and did as Mary, I was actually weak. I needed to reflect, rejoice and respond in ways that said ‘Here I am God. I am here, to do your will.’” Tomeo provided conference attendees with questions for contemplation and resources for serving as a courageous Catholic.
Ambassador Summit (Saturday, Sept 8)
The conference also welcomed Catholic business leaders who support YCP locally and nationally. A crowded room of seasoned professionals heard from author Kimberly Hahn, whose presentation was followed by a panel discussion and a question and answer session.
Recently retired from homeschooling her six children, Hahn was elected in 2015 to a four-year term as a councilwoman at-large for the city of Steubenville, Ohio. She has written several popular books and just completed another, “Rome Sweet Home: Our Journey to Catholicism.” The book discusses the journey she and her husband Scott made into the Catholic Church. In keeping with the theme, “Mary, Star of Hope,” Hahn shared many personal stories in which she felt the presence of the Blessed Mother and pointed to a variety of Scripture passages. She reminded the audience that reading the Bible is a gateway to knowledge and a path to heaven.
After her presentation, Hahn joined Tim Needles, president of Onix, a Cleveland-based cloud solutions provider and YCP Conference presenting sponsor; Maria Dean, director of asset management for CBIZ; and Jennifer Baugh, YCP founder and executive director, for a panel discussion. Dick Russ, president of Adaptive Home Services and founder of several not-for-profit media organizations, served as moderator. Discussion topics included how seasoned Catholic professionals can support young adults living out their faith in secular work environments.
Gala (Saturday, Sept. 8)
Five hundred guests filled the ballroom at the Renaissance Cleveland Hotel for the gala on Saturday evening. The theme was “Nativity Celebration — Cause of Our Joy.” The event included dinner and dancing. Birthday party hats, balloons and festive decor in honor of Mary’s birthday added to the party-like atmosphere. The entire ballroom sang “Happy Birthday” as members of YCP’s national board blew out candles on the birthday cake. President Jennifer Baugh addressed the crowd on the developments YCP has seen over the past year. Tim Needles, a YCP board member, spoke about the financial need at the local and national level. He encouraged everyone to support the overall mission of YCP and provided examples of monthly operational costs that correlate to how chapters minister and provide outreach.