A popular Alaska gathering for teens will be back in June, with some new twists.
The Alaska Catholic Youth Conference is “taking it on the road,” said Matthew Beck, archdiocesan director of evangelization and discipleship, with new venues, new speakers, new service and social opportunities and plans for one optional day in Soldotna.
“We are going out to where people are,” Beck said, with the hope that even more Alaska youth will participate in the annual statewide event, which normally attracts about 175 teens. Events will begin at Lumen Christi High School in Anchorage on June 2, but attendees will spend time at Holy Spirit Center and several Anchorage parishes as well as a day at Sacred Heart Church in Wasilla.
The event ends June 6, but there is a bonus option of traveling to Soldotna on that day, spending the night, and enjoying an extra day on the Kenai June 7. Eighth graders through high school seniors are welcome to attend.
The theme, “The Joy of Our Faith,” will highlight the joy of the Catholic mission, articulated so often by Pope Francis to youth.
“A Christian is never bored or sad. Rather, the one who loves Christ is full of joy and radiates joy,” Pope Francis has said.
In addition to spending time with old friends and making new ones, Beck said youth will find activities planned from morning to night, including a chance to visit a reindeer farm and hike the popular Butte outside Palmer, a 900 foot trek that results in breathtaking views of the Mat-Su Valley.
There also will be time for reflection, reconciliation, Mass, Adoration and service projects.
Emceeing the event will be Katherine Angulo from the University of Notre Dame’s McGrath Institute for Church Life, a project dedicated to forming faithful Catholic leaders, and Lisa Gomes, director of youth and young adult ministry from the Diocese of Honolulu. This is the first trip to ACYC for both.
Additionally, the popular “Tonight Show” will be back. This features a chance for teens to field questions on any topic to Alaska’s four bishops, Anchorage’s Archbishop Paul Etienne and Archbishop Emeritus Roger Schwietz, Fairbanks Bishop Chad Zielinski and Juneau Bishop Andrew Bellisario.
One new addition to ACYC this year is the presence of Maryknoll Lay Missioners. Ted Miles and Karen Bortvedt will deliver a keynote describing the work of the Missioners, a group inspired by the vision of Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers and Maryknoll Sisters.
The Lay Missioners work in Africa, Asia and the Americas in projects including health care, education, leadership training, faith formation and peace and justice work. Over 700 U.S. lay Catholics have served in this mission since its inception in 1975.
The musical group Oddwalk Ministries will make its first appearance in Alaska and promises to keep ACYC lively. Their website says they exist “to help young and old alike embrace Jesus, justice and joy through fun, upbeat and interactive music and witnessing.”
Sister Josephine Garrett will also appear at ACYC for the first time. This young Sister of the Holy Family of Nazareth spent several years in the banking industry before pursuing a vocation as a religious. A native of Texas, she is studying to be a clinical mental health counselor and has a growing reputation as a popular national youth speaker.
Outside of the main speakers, many break-out sessions are planned with local Catholic leaders. And there will be plenty of time for the social events, games, food and fun for which ACYC has long been known.
There is also room for surprises, like the year a contingent from the Yup’ik village of Pilot Station showed up unexpectedly. Teens from all over the state are invited, and Beck said a good number have already registered from Fairbanks.
Beck urges youth to grab their sleeping bags and prepare for a spirited week. Although teens will gain the most from attending the entire event, Beck said sometimes work or travel schedules interfere so there is the option of signing up for single days. There is an additional cost for the Soldotna event, and those interested in ACYC should check the schedule and registration information at archdioceseofanchorage. Beck can be reached at email@example.com or (907) 297-7734.