Yesterday on Twitter, I saw someone refer to a conference with a similar name to the NCYC. It made me stop and think, "Hey, I wonder where the next NCYC is going to be."
If you don't know what the NCYC is, it's the biennial National Catholic Youth Conference. Every two years, a city plays host to over TWENTY THOUSAND Catholic high schoolers and their chaperones for four days of faith, friendship, and fun.
I attended my first NCYC when I was in 10th grade, and, to be honest with you, it was NOT because I wanted to go hang out with other Catholic Youth. It was because I wanted to go to The Mall of America. (Hey, they say God will do whatever He can to get you where He wants you!) You see, in 1995, the NCYC was in Minneapolis, Minnesota. And one of the "side trips" my diocese was offering was to go to the MoA.
I had NO idea what I was getting myself into, and I had NO idea how my life would change as a result.
The NCYC promo video for 2013 sums it up SO WELL. I watched this video (when searching for the answer to my question) and I couldn't say it better myself.
I walked into the auditorium on the first day and saw 20,000 other kids who were PUMPED UP for Jesus. I couldn't believe it. I had been Catholic since the day I was born, but not the same Catholic as them. I made my sacraments and went to Mass, but what was missing was a relationship with Jesus. I remember seeing punk and goth-dressed kids and noting, "If I had seen them anywhere else, I'd probably think to myself, 'They don't care about God.'" I remember stopping for lunch with some newly made friends from California, and when one of them bowed his head in prayer for almost 10 minutes before eating, I remember thinking to myself, "I WANT THAT!" I left CRAVING a deeper relationship with Jesus, and actively pursued one through various avenues (at my parish, at my Catholic school, eventually as a part of our Diocesan Youth Council, etc.).
I was blessed to attend NCYC two more times since then.
In 1997 I attended the NCYC in Kansas City, and represented my diocese on a special panel dedicated to raising awareness about violence amongst youth. I reunited with friends from around the country that I had met in 1995, and the feeling was just overwhelming throughout the 4 days we were there: "I am not alone."
In 2001 I once again returned to the NCYC as a chaperone. At that time I was considering changing my major from education to theology, and attending NCYC just solidified the fact that I wanted to become a youth minister.
Watching the promo videos for NCYC 2013 just brought so many memories flooding back. I can not WAIT for the day when Bebe is old enough to attend, and for me to join her, and for her to know and learn that SHE IS NOT ALONE.