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Home : News : Nation and World
Baptism sets up life of 'fulfillment, purpose,' speaker tells youths
Matt Maher
Matt Maher
Catholic News Service

INDIANAPOLIS — When Stevie Wonder wrote his hit single "Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours" in 1970, he likely never imagined the words would form the theme of a national Catholic gathering for youths.

But the words reinterpreted through the lens of faith formed a clear message to the 21,000 youths gathered for the National Catholic Youth Conference:

Signed — by the waters of baptism. Sealed — by the Holy Spirit. Delivered — from death into life.

The rain that fell outside Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis Nov. 21 proved appropriate, with the opening general session focusing on baptism.

Through that rain, Archbishop Joseph Tobin of Indianapolis processed with the Eucharist from St. John the Evangelist Church across the street to the Indiana Convention Center.

Xander Eisert of the Archdiocese of Louisville, Ky., age 15, described the scene.

"We were in the lobby of the convention center. (Priests and seminarians) started walking in, group after group, and they were singing in Latin. Everyone was down on their knees, our hats were off. It was a really cool experience. I didn't expect that on the first day."

Xander was not the only one impacted by the procession.

"It was impressive to see that many priests in one area," said Luke Grant, 17, of the Diocese of Lansing, Mich.

"I hope to spend some time in adoration while I'm here. On the bus ride here, our guide talked about how there is a thin veil between God and man, and how in the Eucharist that veil is literally taken away, and you're in the presence of God. That's pretty cool," said Luke told The Criterion, newspaper of the Indianapolis Archdiocese.

From the quiet of the adoration chapel in the convention center, the youths made their way to Lucas Oil Stadium for the performances before the opening general session.

In the stadium, the teens swayed, clapped and even formed a conga line to inspiring songs by Grammy-award winning musician Israel Houghton, the energetic tunes of Grupo Huellas and the rap sounds of Righteous B.

Overhead, Twitter tweets from participants flashed on the Jumbotron, statements of joy, excitement and anticipation from youths across the nation yet all under one roof in Indianapolis.

The opening general session began with Catholic catechist, singer, musician and Two by Two Ministries co-founder Jesse Manibusan taking the stage as emcee for the national conference.

He and his wife, Jodi, led 21,000 youths through songs with hand motions and rounds of call and response that drew an enthusiastic participation:

"Who's the church?" "We are!"

"Where's the church?" "Right here!"

"What is the church?" "Welcoming to all!"

"That's how the world knows that we're ... ." "Signed! Sealed! Delivered!"

Manibusan introduced Catholic singer and songwriter Matt Maher. Thousands of teens rushed the stage as he opened with several of his popular songs.

After leading the crowd in an a cappella rendition of the hymn, "Here I Am, Lord", Maher shared his thoughts on the theme of "Signed. Sealed. Delivered."

On the Jumbotron flashed a picture of a young boy.

"That's my 2-year-old son, Conner," Maher said. "Conner loves playing hide-and-seek. But he hates staying hidden. I'll close my eyes, count to 10 and say, 'Where's Conner?' And he'll say, 'Here I am!'

"Baptism is about being found -- by God," Maher continued. "It sets you up for a life of fulfillment, a life of purpose, a life of meaning.

"The problem is, sometimes we make a mess of it. We're covered in sin.

"Your expectation is that God has condemnation or shame for you. But he doesn't. This weekend, God wants to empower you, to help you realize how precious you are in his sight," Maher concluded.

Auxiliary Bishop Christopher J. Coyne of Indianapolis offered closing remarks about the sign of a baptized disciple.

"There's going to be troubles in our lives, times when things don't go right," the bishop said.

"But I really think what marks us most as disciples is the joy of knowing that we're signed, sealed and delivered, of knowing from whom we come and to whom we go.

"Why would anyone want to join a sad church?" Bishop Coyne asked. "Isn't that one of the best ways of being an evangelizer -- to live the good life of faith, and to spread the good news wherever we go that Jesus is Lord?"

Bishop Coyne blessed water that was to be used throughout the Nov. 21-23 conference, then sent the youths off to "try to get some sleep."

Sleep seemed far from the minds of the energized teens.

For Mason Fisher of the Diocese of Columbus, Ohio, a first-time participant, the scene left an indelible mark on his mind. "It is so powerful seeing all these people come together," he said.

Maya Johnson of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, also new to the youth conference, agreed.

"I've never seen so many kids in one place," she said. "It's so inspiring and exhilarating. I hope this experience helps me to connect to God and to share my faith with everyone."

As the thousands of youth made their way out of Lucas Oil Stadium, joyful calls were met with spirited responses:

"Who's the church?" "We are!"

"Where's the church?" "Right here!"

"What is the church?" "Welcoming to all!"

"That's how the world knows that we're ... ." "Signed! Sealed! Delivered!"

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