From November 19-21, 21,000 teens and 3,000 adult chaperones descended on Kansas City for the National Catholic Youth Conference (NCYC), but instead of the usual damage, the teens left a wake of grace that impacted the city.
According to the Catholic Key, the NCYC, whose theme this year was “Christ Reigns,” brought Catholic youth together for three days of prayer, adoration, praise and worship, fellowship, talks, Mass, and dancing. Teens came from all across the continental United States as well as Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico.
“One of the things that makes the conference truly unique,” MC of the conference Steve Angrisano told CNA, “is, other than going to World Youth Day, I don't think there's an experience you can have that really conveys to a young person how big the Church really is.”
“You have all these groups that come from places where their entire youth group is eight people and they are in an arena filled with young people who are Catholic and who believe what they believe and stand up for what they believe,” he continued. “I think it truly is one of the most encouraging things that they can see. They may sometimes feel alone, but they are not alone.”
Conference organizers were faced with a problem when registration exceeded the capacity of the Sprint Center, where all the general sessions were going to be held. The organizers scrambled to find a “satellite” location so that they wouldn't have to turn anyone away.
The solution was the grand ballroom of the H. Roe Bartle Convention Center, which was linked to the Sprint Center “big screen, high-definition, closed-circuit television. It worked so well that the masters of ceremonies at each site, musicians Steve Agrisano at Sprint and Jesse Manibussan at Bartle, were able to sing duets together across downtown Kansas City,” reports Kansas City's Catholic Key.
“I think one of the most unique experiences was doing something like that,” said Angrisano. “We could talk to each other and even sing the song together from 10 blocks away, that was a real interesting experience.”
To prevent any of the teens from feeling like second class citizens, groups were rotated between sites so that no one was relegated to the Bartle ballroom for more than one session. Bennett Coughlan, a conference participant from the Diocese of Winona, Minn. whose group was in the ballroom for the opening session told the Catholic Key, “I thought they were treating us like overflow, and I didn’t like that,” he said. “But we started a conga line, and it went on so long. After we got started, Jesse made it so much fun.”
The NCYC also featured a 22,000 person Eucharistic Procession along the ten blocks from the Sprint Center to the Kansas City Convention Center led by Kansas City-St. Joseph Bishop Robert W. Finn.
“I could have never dreamed how devoted the kids were. They were praying the rosary and singing songs as they walked,” said Angrisano. “It was a real statement. It wasn't just a stroll through the neighborhood. We were there to say “Christ Reigns,” which was the theme of the conference. And I think I really saw that in the way they all lived it.”