By MATTHEW BECK
Thank you to the parishes, retreat center, social and service sites that welcomed the Alaska Catholic Youth Conference (ACYC) to your campuses. Thank you to the many leaders that participated in some aspect of ACYC, and thank you to those that traveled from so far away to accompany the young people throughout. Thank you to parents who encouraged teens to attend. Finally, thank you to the teens who sacrificed time to be present to one another for the journey of faith.
ACYC’s theme this year was “The Joy of Our Faith,” drawn from Pope Francis’ ”Joy of the Gospel” and “The Joy of Love.” The major points of these two beautiful documents were certainly experienced, discussed and lived in the lives of the young people and their adult chaperones who attended ACYC.
On Facebook and Twitter, Pope Francis writes, “A Christian is never bored or sad. Rather, the one who loves Christ is full of joy and radiates joy.” Today’s world often does not reflect such joy amidst issues we deal with daily, such as poverty, hunger, homelessness, prejudice and violence. People are in dire need of it. It is up to modern-day disciples to strive for joy in our own lives and in turn, to pour it out to others through our actions and words. At ACYC presenters and adult leaders worked to help teens face such challenges through the perspective of our Catholic faith and contrary to how the rest of the world often pervades the topics and human race. At ACYC, teens were encouraged to acknowledge the dignity of each person and joyfully and lovingly accept others as our brothers and sisters in Christ when sharing our faith.
In the keynotes, workshops, concert and activities, the conference theme and words and wisdom of Pope Francis were consistently drawn upon. The church celebrated the Ascension of the Lord on the weekend just prior to ACYC. The psalmist acclaimed, “God mounts his throne to shouts of joy; a blare of trumpets for the Lord.” That was our responsorial psalm at Mass throughout all of ACYC. Our lives are to reflect such joy. That joy comes from knowing Jesus. Teens learned about and prayed about how and where to find that joy through difficult times, amidst everyday circumstances of life, and when it has been lost or hindered by wounds, pain and anger.
Workshop presenters, keynote speakers, prayer leaders, religious sisters, priests and bishops shared their stories of faith and their knowledge. They helped youth have an experience of authentic Catholic witnesses. Together we created a community of faith throughout the days of ACYC. In the end, the teens were commissioned with a cross and a blessing to carry their encounter with Christ and their experience at ACYC out into their everyday lives to be shared with others. Hopefully, those who attended any part of ACYC returned to their homes and normal routines with newfound inspiration to share the Gospel after encountering Christ.
The Lord was present in the moments and experiences of ACYC. The Holy Spirit united those who participated in ways beyond our full understanding and continues to do so throughout the world. May we unpack the time that we shared together and continue to turn to the Lord, discerning his call to us throughout our lives. The Lord comes to be with us every day and every moment, whether or not we recognize him. May we go forth into the summer, beyond the experiences of ACYC, as stronger missionary disciples who strive to share our faith with others, building loving communities of faith, wherever we find ourselves.
The writer is Director of Youth & Young Adult Ministry with the Archdiocese of Anchorage.