Catholic News Service
With National Catholic Youth Conference participants dancing behind him, Catholic musician Steve Angrisano plays on stage in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis Nov. 22 during a general session of the biennial Catholic youth gathering.
Catholic News Service
With National Catholic Youth Conference participants dancing behind him, Catholic musician Steve Angrisano plays on stage in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis Nov. 22 during a general session of the biennial Catholic youth gathering.
Here is an editorial from the Nov. 29 issue of The Criterion, newspaper of the Indianapolis Archdiocese. It was written by Mike Krokos, editor.

There were hugs, handshakes and high fives shared throughout the weekend.

Lots of them. When you're among 23,000 of your peers having the time of your life, teenagers do that kind of thing.

And we can't forget the hats. Tons of hats. Upside-down ice cream cones. Cowboy hats. Replicas of the Statue of Liberty on young people's heads.

But the 2013 National Catholic Youth Conference (NCYC) Nov. 21-23 at the Indiana Convention Center and Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis was about something bigger.

It was a three-day pilgrimage of faith for the young people, their chaperones, and the speakers, musicians, priests, bishops, deacons, seminarians and religious who participated during this journey where they had their lives of faith "Signed, Sealed, Delivered," the theme of the conference.

As Indianapolis Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin described it at the closing Mass, it was a gathering of "the national parish of the United States of America" that also coincided with the end of the church's Year of Faith and the feast of Christ the King.

You couldn't help but feel energized -- and hopeful -- as you watched the teenagers soak in all they saw and heard during the three days, then shared their reflections of how it affected them as young people eager to have their lives of faith nurtured by the church and its sacraments.

"For me, it was eye-opening," said Renee Gibney, 17, a member of St. Joseph Parish in Elkader, Iowa, in the Archdiocese of Dubuque.

"You're at a higher God level," she said. "You really think more."

Matthew Benetiz, 17, a member of St. Celestine Parish in Elmwood Park, Ill., in the Archdiocese of Chicago, was just as energized.

"It's just great to see so many kids together in one spot, doing the same thing, trying to deepen their faith in God," he said, "getting closer to everyone and to God and all the saints."

If you think these young people only talk the talk, think again.

As in 2011 -- when NCYC was held in Indianapolis, too -- teenagers stood in long lines to receive the sacrament of reconciliation.

The prayer chapel consistently had lots of young people visiting to pray or sit quietly in reflection.

And many of them attended not only the closing Mass but the regional liturgies held Nov. 21 and 22 to receive the greatest gift of our faith, the Eucharist.

With the advances in technology we've had during these young people's lifetime, which translates into a constant news cycle, we are quick as a society to hear of the challenges and heartbreak so many of them face. Faith seems noticeably absent from the conversation.

What NCYC proves to us once again, as Catholics, is that many of our teenagers are hungry to learn more about God and what our church teaches and why, and why we need to continue to make it a priority to provide them catechetical opportunities that will bear fruit.

NCYC is a prime example of how to do this, and Robert McCarty and his staff at the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry and Kay Scoville, director of youth ministry in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis and her staff and local steering committee members, are to be commended for letting the Holy Spirit work through them to organize an outstanding faith-filled gathering.

But we also can't forget to thank the hundreds of volunteers who donated their time to help make the weekend memorable for our young church and so many others.

Wondering what the future of the church looks like? Katie Koehne, a youth minister at St. Joseph Parish in Elkader, Iowa, has a pretty good idea.

"The kids make NCYC. I look around here, and I'm surrounded by all these terrific youths and I truly see the future of the church and the future of the world," she said. "It just really gives me a lot more confidence in the future of the world knowing that we have kids like this to carry on what we're doing."

More proof that today's young people love our church and what it can bring to their lives of faith.

It is a faith they cherish, and want to learn more about to grow closer to God. May we make the time to continue to nurture each and every one of their souls.