By WINNIE COMBS
As a cradle Catholic and regular churchgoer, this year’s Alaska Catholic Youth Conference (ACYC) in Anchorage challenged me to dig deeper into my understanding of Catholicism and, as a result, how to practice my faith in daily life. This intense four-day spiritual journey featured a large variety of workshops, ranging from tech addiction to medical bioethics to human dignity, as well as keynote speakers after every meal.
The conference began with Mass and a keynote address in which we were asked to contemplate our intentions at ACYC. This set the reflective mood for the conference.
I learned, in the “We Are Not Animals” session, about the passions of humanity: love, desire and delight, and their opposites: hate, aversion and sadness. However, the next day, I was shocked to learn that we are not in control of these feelings and that they are in a morally neutral area. Yet, it is the duty of our conscience to sort out the good from the bad so we can act in a way that draws us closer to God.
Another memorable workshop was a girls-only talk with Sister Mary Barbara of the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecelia. She was very frank as we discussed the importance of modesty in modern society. We talked about respecting ourselves so others would respect us. The workshop included much laughter and a delightful question and answer session, and it solidified my desire to live a chaste life.
My last workshop, “Tech Addiction,” truly influenced my view of technology. I learned about the cycle of addiction and we talked about how technology designed to draw us together often actually drives us apart. Although workshops filled my mornings and evenings, the afternoons left time for reflection, bonding with other teens and putting our faith in action.
When we registered we chose a social activity and I opted for the park excursion. While playing a variety of games, I met amazing people from all over Alaska and formed lasting friendships. The third afternoon, we chose from different service projects. I volunteered at the Pioneer Home downtown where I assisted the residents in playing bingo. It was enjoyable to see the elders interact and the families that had come to visit.
ACYC wrapped up with vocational talks about holy orders and matrimony, as well as a helpful session about keeping faith in college. The ideas presented in these talks will stay in mind and inspire perseverance in my faith over the next few years. It was hard to say goodbye after Mass on the last day. There were tears and promises to keep in contact. The friendships formed at ACYC are truly meaningful because it is so easy to feel alone in the secular world. By going to this conference I was able to connect with other teens immersed in their faith. These relationships have continued past ACYC and they keep challenging me to find God’s will in my life every day.
The writer is a junior at Dimond High School and a parishioner at St. Benedict Church in Anchorage.