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A conference attendee raised their hands during week two of the Steubenville St. Louis Mid-America Youth Conference on July 15 at the Great Southern Bank Arena in Springfield, Missouri.
A conference attendee raised their hands during week two of the Steubenville St. Louis Mid-America Youth Conference on July 15 at the Great Southern Bank Arena in Springfield, Missouri.
Photo Credit: Jacob Wiegand | St. Louis Review | [email protected]

At Steubenville youth conference, teens fearlessly discover their identity in Christ

Nearly 6,000 teens attend over two weekends at Missouri State University in Springfield

Today’s young generation is being formed in a culture of fear.

One of the greatest fears teens face is what others think of them, said Xander Johnson, who attended the Steubenville youth conference with his youth group at St. Patrick Parish in Wentzville. Finding your identity as a beloved of Christ, he said, is the first step in understanding the purpose God created us for.

“Finding your identity in Christ, the fear starts to go away,” Xander said. “If (God) is who He truly says He is, then I am who He truly says I am, and I am to have no fear.”

The senior at Christian Brothers College High School is involved in Brothers In Prayer, a student-run prayer group that helps lead students closer to Christ and grow in faith. The community, Xander said, helps him to sustain his faith beyond his participation at Steubenville.

Steubenville STL Mid-America, or SteubySTL as it’s nicknamed, is a three-day youth conference held annually on two weekends in July on the campus of Missouri State University in Springfield. It’s organized through a partnership among the archdiocesan Office of Youth Ministry, Steubenville Conferences and Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio. The event is one of several Steubenville youth conferences held in the summer across the United States.

From its inception as a weekend event hosted at Marquette High School in Chesterfield in 1999, just a few months after St. John Paul II’s visit to St. Louis, the conference has grown in its 23-year history. This year more than 2,600 teens, volunteers, staff and clergy attended the first weekend, July 8-10. About 3,300 attended the second weekend, July 15-17.

Father Christopher Martin processed with the Blessed Sacrament in eucharistic adoration during week two of the Steubenville St. Louis Mid-America Youth Conference July 15 at the Great Southern Bank Arena in Springfield, Missouri.
Photo Credits: Jacob Wiegand | St. Louis Review | [email protected]
Throughout the weekends, the teens heard from speakers on a variety of topics. The sacraments are key elements of the weekends, including Mass, confessions and eucharistic adoration. For many teens, the weekend is a life-changing experience, shaping how they practice their faith.

Reflecting on this year’s theme, “Fearless” (John 16:33), host Chris Stefanick said that the current generation of young people, Generation Z, has been shaped by a culture of fear. “We have a generation that is plagued with fear, because when there is no faith, there is reason to fear,” he said. “Jesus is not calling you to live in fear.”

Faith “enables you to look death in the eye and say I win,” Stefanick said. “In Jesus Christ, I win.”

Friday night’s keynote speaker, David Calavitta, expanded upon the theme by telling the teens that they are fearlessly created in the image and likeness of God.

Humans often run and hide in fear of poor decisions. The first humans, Adam and Eve, sinned because they were afraid, believing the lie that God is not who he says He is, Calavitta said. When they sinned and hid from God in the Garden, God sought them out, asking: “Where are you?”

When God asks that question, He already knows the answer, Calavitta said. Rather, He wants us to consider our answer — why are we hiding and where are we in relationship with the loving God who created us?

Whatever the rubble of our lives looks like — suffering, brokenness, confusion or depression — God “will dig through it to get to you,” he said.

Addison Arens traveled to the conference with her youth group from All Saints Parish in Le Mars, Iowa. The high school senior described the conference as her “check-in” with God, adding that her relationship with Him is constantly a work in progress.

As a senior, Addison is making college visits and thinking about the next chapter in her life. “Coming into this weekend, what I want to focus on is learning to trust in God … and I just have to trust in God’s plan day by day and live in the moment.”

Week 2 of the Steubenville STL Mid-America youth conference continues through July 17. Visit steubystl365.com for livestreaming, blog posts and more.

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