Youth Convention Returns to Strengthen Teen Faith – Arkansas Catholic


250 high school students gather in Little Rock for a weekend of camaraderie, support and prayer

Posted: April 13, 2022

Chris Price

Bailey Brewer of St. Joseph’s Church in Conway and member of the Youth Advisory Council leadership team beams as she helps lead icebreakers to help participants wind down ahead of Saturday’s session of the 70th Annual Catholic Youth Convention April 8-10.

An annual convention for Catholic high schools is being held to show teens there is a community of faith they belong in and can celebrate with, said diocesan youth director Liz Tingquist.

High school students from across the state gathered for the first time in two years at the Robinson Center in Little Rock for the 70th Annual Catholic Youth Convention April 8-10.

“It’s an opportunity for them to have a spiritual experience with the Lord and to hear motivational speakers who appear at international and national youth events,” Tingquist said. “They can be themselves and not have to put on a facade. They have the opportunity to see other children and adults living out their faith and don’t have to worry about what others will think if they choose to express their faith in a joyful way. It’s also a year-end hurrah to get them through the summer, when they might not experience community as much as they do during the school year.

About 250 students and chaperones from 19 parishes participated this year, far fewer than pre-COVID numbers, according to Tingquist. They listened to lectures on the theme “Strengthen one another”. Keynote speaker Jackie Francois Angel, singer-songwriter, public speaker and Dallas youth minister, delivered a powerful message on how to “be a light to the world.”

“I just hope to let these kids know that there are other kids who love Jesus too. I feel like it’s really hard for kids our age to understand that they’re not the only ones who are Catholics.”

“The devil wants you to forget who you are,” she said, explaining to her audience that only God and his love can fill the void that many have tried and failed to fill with alcohol, drugs and sex. She explained that the same Holy Spirit who uplifted Jesus’ apostles is available to uplift and inspire them.

“The Eucharist makes us a walking tabernacle of life”, she declared before adding the quote from Saint Maximilian Kolbe: “If the angels could be jealous of men, they would be so for a reason: the Holy Communion”.

The three-day convention included several icebreaker activities to help teens feel comfortable with each other so they can be open to sharing their faith and inspiring each other.

The Diocesan Youth Advisory Council (YAC) led its peers in praise and worship with music, games and skits, including a moving depiction of a student who contemplated suicide before offering her trouble to Jesus who took away his pain and confusion.

The delegates also had the opportunity to take part in the sacrament of reconciliation, a mass, a banquet and the presentation of prizes. Steve and Lisa Dearasaugh received the Diocesan Service Medal from Bishop Anthony B. Taylor for 30 years of ministry to youth at the Immaculate Heart of Mary in North Little Rock and as members of our Adult Advisory Council for the Diocese.

Attendees were asked to donate $5 each to the Terry Skelton Fund, which provides funds for young people who need financial assistance to attend diocesan events, and to donate clothing to Jericho Way, a homeless day resource center operated by Depaul USA.

Gillian Lachowsky, a YAC member from St. Mary’s Church in Altus, said, “We talk about real-life stuff and try to bring God in a more relevant way than just talking about him.”

As the convention was canceled in 2020 and 2021, most attendees had never experienced the annual convention. The current seniors were in ninth grade when the last convention was held in 2019.

Lachowsky, a junior, said she was looking forward to it because she had “heard nothing but good things about them” from previous attendees. Being able to share their faith in a setting away from societal pressures and secular popular culture is key to its success, she said.

“It’s nice to be able to meet in person,” she says. “These kids love them, and I’m so excited to be here and help set it up. I just hope to let these kids know that there are other kids who love Jesus too. I I feel like it’s really hard for kids our age to understand that they’re not the only ones who are Catholic. A lot of times when you look at our parishes, they’re all old people, and it can be difficult After a while, you can have meltdowns, so conventions like this are a great start to making sure you stay on track.

Luke Parker, a sophomore who attends Immaculate Conception Church in North Little Rock, agreed.

“I feel like it’s a really good way to bring people of the same faith together,” he said. “I have the impression that we are often alone. We get used to it a bit, but it’s good to get together and share our faith to know that we are not the only ones going through what we are facing. We have other people to talk to and share our experiences. At first it can be a little awkward, but I find that as the convention progresses it has become much more comfortable. You feel a sense of coming together. I highly recommend it. The speakers were wonderful and reassured us about our place and our faith.

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