The morning of Nov. 18, about 110 high school students, youth ministers, clergy and other members of the Diocese of Cleveland delegation will board buses and travel to Indianapolis, Indiana for the National Catholic Youth Conference.
There they will meet Bishop Edward Malesic, who will be traveling to the conference after spending the early part of the week participating in the fall meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore, Maryland.
Francine Costantini, director of youth ministry for the diocese, said the following parishes will be represented this year: Holy Spirit and St. Joseph, Avon Lake; Nativity of the Lord Jesus, Akron; St. Barnabas, Northfield; St. Charles Borromeo, Parma; St. Clarence, North Olmsted; St. Francis of Assisi, Gates Mills; St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, Lorain and St. Vincent de Paul, Elyria, which share a youth ministry; St. Francis Xavier, Medina; St. Ladislas, Westlake; St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception, Wooster; St. Michael, Independence; St. Michael the Archangel, Cleveland; and St. Raphael, Bay Village.
Also attending will be Father Mike McCandless, director of the Diocesan Vocation Office.
The conference opens the afternoon of Nov. 18 and will include full-day sessions on Nov. 19 and 20. Events will take place at Lucas Oil Stadium and the Indianapolis Convention Center. The closing Mass on Nov. 20 will feature a familiar face as homilist: Philadelphia Archbishop Nelson Perez. During his time as bishop of Cleveland, the archbishop was named episcopal advisor to the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry, the organization that organizes NCYC.
Bishop Malesic said he’s looking forward to spending time with the diocesan delegation during the conference, All the bishops will be introduced during a session on Nov. 19. Costantini said a teen from St. Clarence will introduce Bishop Malesic to all attendees.
“The bishop wants to eat as many meals as possible with our group and to spend time with them,” Costantini said. The entire Cleveland delegation will gather on Nov. 20 with the bishop for a session including lunch in a meeting room at their hotel.
Costantini, an NCYC veteran, said this year’s event is scaled down due to the coronavirus pandemic. In past years, 20,000 to 25,000 teens would attend. This year, in-person attendance is limited to about 10,000 and safety precautions are in place. Some will attend the event virtually. All in-person attendees must be fully vaccinated or have a negative COVID-19 test prior to the event. Face masks are required during the sessions and hand-sanitizing stations will be provided.
Before heading to Indianapolis, the delegation met on Nov. 6 for a sendoff at St. Clarence Parish. The group enjoyed some team-building exercises, had a chance to chat with the bishop and hear his vocation story. They also received detailed information about the event and attended Mass celebrated by the bishop.
During his homily, he mentioned a song by the band Three Dog Night, “One is the Loneliest Number.” The bishop told the group not to do that. “Let’s not be alone in our faith,” he said, explaining that Jesus calls us to be together. He gathers us around the altar and doesn’t want us walking our faith journey alone. “There is strength in numbers. We are not a Church of one – we are a Church of all believers,” he said.
“Even I need other people in my life if I want my faith to burn as bright as God wants,” the bishop said. He told the teens they give him strength “to keep moving forward, to keep the faith and to be better myself as a follower of Jesus.”
They will be with thousands of other faith-filled Catholics in Indianapolis, but in the quiet of their rooms, there will be opportunities for a private, daily chats with Jesus, the bishop said. He encouraged the teens to take advantage of those moments. “Jesus wants to hear from you. And he wants to speak to you heart to heart.”
But after those quiet times, he said they must take Jesus with them as they meet others who also met Jesus. In addition, he encouraged the group to pray for each other as they head to NCYC.
“We are here because being here at this moment is a part of God’s plan for us. We were chosen to be together by God from before the foundation of the world. The members of the Church are not in the Church by coincidence. We are members because we have said ‘yes’ to the call of Jesus to follow him,” Bishop Malesic said.
He said to think of NCYC as a pilgrimage, a journey to a place to find God. “We want to find God there, to experience God there. We want to grow in our faith. We want to meet Jesus there.”
They are going to Indianapolis with a spiritual purpose, he said, adding it’s not just to have fun, but also to grow in the Lord. “And by the way, being holy isn’t boring, it’s exciting, and it is our destiny as children of God. Holiness makes people smile, come to life, find meaning and be grounded in the source of our very being, God himself.”
The bishop asked the group to pray for each other “so that our hearts will be open wide enough to receive every blessing that Jesus wants to give us. Let us go together, not as one, but as many. Let us build each other up in the faith we have received.”