On the weekend of July 27-29th, five busloads of youth and adults traveled to St. Paul, MN for the “Steubenville North” High School Age Youth Conference.

Sponsored and organized by “Yahweh’s Yoopers”, the group totaled almost 250, including one busload from Marinette, WI and the other four bringing youth and adults from various parishes across the Diocese of Marquette.  Our group was the largest single group of youth attendees for the conference, which totaled just over 1,900 youth and adults from six or seven states across the U.S.  

The biggest blessing for our group was that Bishop Alexander Sample was with us for the entire weekend trip!  He enjoyed spending some time on each of the different buses while on the way to St. Paul, and allowing the youth to ask some questions of him. When we arrived at the Conference, the leaders announced that this was the first time that they had a Bishop in attendance for the entire weekend! 

This “Steubenville North” conference is one of seventeen Youth Conferences held at various ‘satellite sites’ and all sponsored by Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio.  The theme for this year’s conferences was “All Access” – focusing on the total access God has given us to Himself through Christ (Eph. 2:17-18).  Through times of total group prayer and praise, inspiring talks, lots of times for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, Masses, Eucharistic Adoration and procession, small group sessions for guys and gals, the Lord was truly giving us all access to His transforming grace.

The fullness and power of our Catholic faith is always shown in the powerful witness talks and worship times experienced, as well as the encouraging presence of so many fine young people from all across the nation.

One of the great aspects of the ministry organized by “Yahweh’s Yoopers” for the trip is the preparation and talks given by young people to their peers while on the way to St. Paul and on the way home.  Talks focus on topics like Relationships, Confession, Prayer, Suffering and Perseverance, Eucharist and Adoration, and Spiritual Warfare.   The sincerity, honesty, and faith of those giving talks is always an encouraging sign of the Lord at work among our young people! 

During the Conference, those of us priests present get a good workout hearing Confessions for hours, and it’s always deeply rewarding to again see the Lord at work in hearts and souls seeking His mercy…  The times of Eucharistic adoration on Friday and Saturday nights were powerful as usual – drawing us to receive the Lord’s healing and strength, and to give ourselves to Him in trust and surrender.  On Saturday night, prayer for empowerment in the Holy Spirit and prayer ministry with one another allowed the Lord to bring His peace and strength to many.

Every youth Conference ends with a beautiful Mass, this time the main presider was Bishop John Neinstedt, who was just named to succeed Archbishop Harry Flynn for the Archdiocese of St. Paul.  Drawing our strength from the Eucharist, we ended the Conference with renewed love, fervor, and commitment to follow the Lord.  At the conclusion of the final Mass for each Conference there is usually a ‘vocations call’ for young men and women who think that God may be calling them to vocations of priesthood or religious life and are open to that.  They are invited to come forward from the arena seats to stand at the foot of the sanctuary and receive encouragement and prayers of blessing for them to grow in discerning God’s call to them.   There were at least 50 young men who came forward (several from our group) and perhaps 40 young women (again some from our group).  Their sincerity and openness to the Lord before their peers is again a great witness!

On our way back home, our group stopped at the parish in Wausau, WI (where we had stopped on our way to the Conference), where a nice meal was provided by “Yahweh’s Yoopers” workers.  Bishop Sample gave us his own great talk, expressing his joy in being with our youth, the hope they give him, and a strong call to follow through in faith through prayer, the Eucharist, and regular confession.  He mentioned how someone once remarked to him that events like this with young people were (in their opinion) just “seed sowed on rocky ground”… Bishop Sample called our youth to prove that opinion wrong by their faithfulness to what they have heard, learned and experienced from the Lord.  He gave all a special invitation to the Diocesan Youth Gathering scheduled for Jan. 18-20, 2008 in Marquette, which is aimed to foster a similar stirring of faith among youth of the whole Diocese.  Those youth who made the “Steubenville North” trip can be real ‘ambassadors for Christ’ and draw others to discover the ‘access’ we have to Him in the Church!

From the Diocese of Marquette Michigan, U.P. Catholic Charismatic Newsletter (Summer 2007) .