- I couldn’t remember every single detail of the Steubenville Conference. However, days after the Steubenville Conference, I sit down and write this reflection writing whatever I remember so that other young people may want to attend Steubenville Toronto 2017!
- After thinking about it, I will make my Steuebenville Toronto reflection in four parts. A new reflection will be published every two weeks, so stay tuned!
- Many of the talks will be available on the Steubenville Conferences Youtube Channel
The Steubenville Toronto Catholic Youth Conference started on Friday July 22, 2016 at approximately 6:30 pm and concluded on Sunday July 23, 2016 at 12:30 pm. This was my first time attending the Steubenville Conference and expected five things, that I have mentioned in my previous post: (1) A lot of Catholics, (2) a youth Mass, (3) Time to be with the youth in my Parish, (4) big chunk of time with Our Lord, and (5) some time to relax the mind and let God speak to me. All of these expectations were met and even beyond! I would like to give a brief outline of each day and reflecting on the activities.
Myself, two youth retreatants and two chaperones later than most of the youth at my Parish and stepped foot onto campus at almost 5:00pm. On the route to dinner and meet with the rest of the Parish group, our small group passed by marketplace. At the time, I only snatched three prayer cards from the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) table (I love prayer cards and keep a collection with over 300 cards today). I just snatched the prayer cards. One was of the Divine Mercy with the Divine Mercy Chaplet at the back. The second one was a card featuring the Divine Mercy with St. Faustina Kowalska the founder of the Divine Mercy movement, and Pope Francis, the Pope of mercy. It included an abridged version of the Jubilee of Mercy prayer. The third card featured an image of Mother Angelica, the founder of EWTN who has just passed away this past Easter Sunday. I finally found the Vietnamese Martyrs Parish group and had dinner. The main doors opened at 6:00 pm. Everything started at approximately 6:45 pm with a very energetic countdown. Then, Joe Zambon, the worship leader kicked off the whole event with great songs. This was our Parish’s first time at the conference and therefore, many of us did not know the songs (for me, the only song I knew during the conference was in fact not English, but Latin, Tantum Ergo). I was surprised at the energy that Catholic Youth had. I have never seen youth in Catholic schools actually becoming engaged in anything faith-related. After the energetic session of praise, Ennie Hickman took the spotlight, talking about “I Thirst”, related to the theme of the whole conference, THIRST. He talked about the significance of physical thirst in his own life and also its significance in one of son’s life. Ennie also made the connection between the physical and spiritual thirst, how God thirsts for us. After, we had Eucharistic Adoration. The Altar was rolled out (wheels were attached on it). The thabor (a special stand for the monstrance) with a monstrance was put upon the Altar before hand. Eucharistic Adoration inaugurated with the priest coming out with a luna with the consecrated host. Everyone, despite the concrete floors of the gymnasium still knelt down in reverence. I really liked the Steubenville Conference form of Eucharistic Adoration. As I recall, the body of the Eucharistic Adoration was when a reading was proclaimed. After every few sentences, there was a response/chorus sung. This reminded me of Taizé prayer how many of the songs were just responses sung over and over again but still very powerful. I admired the fact that many of the youth knew the Tantum Ergo ancient Latin hymn. Many of the Gregorian chants seem to have been forgotten! We all received the blessing of the Blessed Sacrament. The Divine Praises was recited and a closing hymn. The adoration on Friday was an amazing experience. I enjoyed the times when only music was playing and times of absolute silence. Those were times when I felt close to Jesus and reminded me of a line from You Speak by Audrey Assad, “In the silence of the heart you speak.” Indeed, I felt that God was thirsting for me and for all (I will elaborate on this later on). After Adoration, after realizing that God thirsts for me, I decided to go to confession. When I was young (after first confession), I just went to confession once a year, only because one of the precepts of the Catholic Church was, “You shall confess your sins at least once a year.” However, as I grew older, I began reading many more Catholic materials, and with Pope Francis, I went to confession from three to four times a year. Being at a Catholic conference, I decided that I wanted to stay close to Our Lord throughout the conference and after, as long as possible. There were about fifty priests, including the Archbishop of Toronto, Thomas Cardinal Collins were available for confession. We did not get to choose our confessor. However, God must of have planned everything somehow because my confessor was the rector of St. Augustine’s Seminary, Fr. Edwin Gonsalves. I think this was the first time that I actually felt a welcoming sensation this confession, probably because it was one of those rare situations where confession was not celebrated in a confessional. Once absolved, I respectfully shook hands with the priest and thanked him. I felt God’s mercy pour over me during that confession. The last thing we did during the day was a small group discussion. It was interesting how different people had different feelings about the different prayer style. Each person had a unique experience. We concluded our day with a short night prayer as a group and parted for the night. As part of my routine, I silently read Evening Prayer of July 22 (even though it was over 12 am) and wrote a reflection in my spiritual journal on the Gospel of the day. The Gospel of the day was of St. John chapter 20 verses 1-2, 11-18 and talks about Mary Magdalene witnessing the empty tomb. This made sense as July 22 was the feast of St. Mary Magdalene. I reflected on a specific quote, “I have seen the Lord!” (Jn 20:18). I made a connection to the events of the day as it is true, I have seen the Lord in Adoration and experienced His presence. That concluded the first day of the Steubenville Conference.
(to be continued)…