Having been invited to represent the Dominican Sisters of Peace at the National Catholic Youth Conference (NCYC) in the Indianapolis Conference Center, I had no idea what I would encounter.
As a representative of our congregation, I became a “team member” of a group of six Catholic sisters, which included Franciscan and St Joseph sisters from Pennsylvania. While some congregations rented tables to display information about their congregation, we were part of a new feature setup by the National Religious Vocation Conference (NRVC) office in a large conference room which was listed as the “Inspiration Nook,” right next to the main chapel. Teams of six religious sisters, brothers and priests working for vocations could register to make “The Nook” their “home place,” displaying congregational information on the tables that were along the walls in this room.
Seventeen teams of six were registered at The Nook. That’s right: we were 102 sisters, brothers and priests freely mingling with the 24,000 participants at the NCYC! Twenty-thousand were high school youth, and 4,000 were the parents and mentors.
We were all given a sky blue tee shirt to wear, which said on the front: “Here I am Lord, Send me.” On the back of the tee shirt was written: “Consider religious life….Ask us.” We all wore the shirts, even those wearing habits!
And the best part of all, we were free to move around among the high school youth and their mentors and participate in all the activities. We each signed up for one two-hour period to be present in The Nook throughout the conference. This gave us opportunities to have some great conversations with the youth.
I really liked volunteering in the “Prayer Corner” in the activities hall. Instead of a “Corner,” this was an awesome complex that welcomed a constant stream of participants through a labyrinth-style walk of various types of prayer activities, reflections, and demonstrations. I also volunteered in the arts and crafts area, helping participants make string rosaries. An inspiring activity I had was assisting Catholic Relief Service personnel helping youth to fill family-sized bags with dry and dehydrated ingredients to make a meal to be sent to people in Burkina Faso.
Masses and small group workshops were offered in various locations in the Convention Center, throughout each day. I attended Mass every day, even one in Latin! I went to two conference sessions – one at which Carolyn Woo, President and CEO of Catholic Relief Services, spoke on Friday, and the other was a night session of singing, witnessing, etc. on Saturday.
I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience. I met many wonderful people, and actually “bumped” into a friend of mine from Kansas: Shannon Davis, OPA and her three children! Imagine my surprise when I heard the call, in a crowded hallway: “Sister Terry!” and saw them! What a way to end this faith-filled weekend and to experience the vitality of our Catholic youth – the future of our Church.
Together let us build a future of hope by inviting other women to share our life as a religious sister. May the harvest be plenty and may many respond: “Here I am, Lord, send me.”