Nearly 150 teens gathered in Anchorage for this year’s Alaska Catholic Youth Conference at Lumen Christi High School and St. Benedict Church. Bishops, priests, deacons, seminarians and a small army of volunteers also participated in the June 6-9 event, with the theme: “Boundless Mercy.”
Traveling from communities across Alaska, youth from the Fairbanks Diocese, Juneau Diocese and Anchorage Archdiocese heard from nationally renowned speakers, Christian bands and religious order brothers and sisters. They also attended daily Mass, spent time in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and took opportunities to go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation with one of a dozen priests who volunteered to hear confessions.
The youth began their mornings with prayers led by priests or religious sisters. They also enjoyed a concert by nationally recognized Catholic musician Pedro Rubalcava, as well as music from local performers.
Visiting speaker, Bishop Caggiano, Bishop of Bridgeport, Conn., spoke to teens and celebrated the closing Mass on June 9. The night before, teens gathered with Alaska’s three bishops, Archbishop Roger Schwietz, Juneau Bishop Edward Burns and Fairbanks Bishop Chad Zielinski for an evening of games, questions and socializing.
During the afternoons, youth attended a wide array of workshops dealing with aspects of the Catholic faith. Topics included talks on the Blessed Virgin, the saints and martyrs and their roles in pointing the faithful to Christ. Other workshops looked at the need to serve the poor and marginalized in society and how to use social media to advance social justice. Youth also heard talks on experiencing the mercy of God and on the relationship between justice and mercy.
Addressing contemporary challenges facing youth, some presentations focused on how to overcome and help others struggling with addiction, temptation and vice, how to talk to friends who have had an abortion, the dignity of all human beings and how to prepare for confession.
In addition to learning about their faith, youth also put it into action through various social justice projects. Younger teens made sandwiches for the homeless and helped paint decorations for Vacation Bible School at St. Benedict Church. Older teens painted bowls for Bean’s Cafe, wrote letters to military personnel and their families and worked in small groups to raise awareness, via social media, about issues on Catholic social teaching and works of mercy.
All the presentations, projects and entertainment were tied together with daily Masses celebrated by Alaska’s bishops. Youth participated as altar servers, singers, musicians and readers throughout the week.