Youth Conference participants enjoy watching peers stream into the Seaside Convention Center.
SEASIDE — Almost 800 Catholic youths gathered here in mid November to examine their lives and their faith. In addition to seminars, concerts and fun, each teen received a copy of the church's new official catechism for youths and young adults.
It was all part of the biennial Archdiocese of Portland Youth Conference held at the Seaside Convention Center. The theme was “Find Us Ready,” based on the Sunday gospel addressing preparation for the end times. The conference participants were challenged to prepare today for this world and the next. Singer-songwriter Tom Booth’s song, "Find Us Ready," was used as the theme song.
It was the largest youth conference in recent history with fifty parishes represented. Youths came from all over western Oregon, including southern regions.
A donor paid for the YouCat youth catechisms. This past summer, Pope Benedict, who wrote the foreword to the YouCat, gave more than 700,000 of the books to World Youth Day pilgrims in Madrid.
In Seaside last month, youth conference emcees referred to the YouCat frequently. Archbishop John G. Vlazny blessed the YouCats at the closing mass. Knowing the Mass would likely be his last youth conference mass as archbishop, the young people thanked their spiritual leader with a card wishing him well in his pending retirement. The young church of western Oregon also made a donation to Catholic Charities in the archbishop's name.
This youth conference included workshops, many presented by local organizations such as Oregon Right to Life and the archdiocese's vocation committee.
The conference was sponsored by the Archdiocesan Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry, directed by Michal Horace. Many parish coordinators of youth ministry volunteered to staff the large conference.
A highlight of the conference was benediction and exposition on Saturday night. Booth led the house band and gave one of the keynote talks. Sarah Jarzenbowski, a life coach and youth speaker, gave the other keynote.
This year’s conference featured a new dimension as social media was intentionally made a part of the conference through the use of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and texting technology. A conference staff member coordinated the weekend’s social media and several sessions began with open-ended text polls with the responses displayed on the big screens in the conference hall.
Eric Lippi, a young Catholic from Milwaukie, gave a talk and helped at workshops.
"It helped me to realize the fulfillment and satisfaction that comes with helping push the message of courage and God's love," Lippi wrote on Facebook. "I believe I speak for the youth of the archdiocese when I say it was a great weekend, and I'm hoping for many more days, preparing ourselves with the things we learned at the conference, to let the Lord find us ready for him."
The next archdiocesan youth conference will be November 21-23, 2014.