For many teens, the Steubenville STL Mid-America youth conference is a life-changing experience, shaping how they practice their faith.
This year’s conferences were no exception. Building upon 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.”
The teens were encouraged to courageously live the faith and bring others to Christ. Courage, a virtue, is not the absence of fear, but bravery in the face of things that scare us, speaker Rachel Leininger told them.
Xander Johnson, a senior at Christian Brothers College High School who has attended several Steubenville conferences, said finding your identity in Christ is key to overcoming fear. “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,” Xander said.
The conference, organized by the archdiocesan Office of Youth Ministry, in collaboration with Steubenville Youth Conferences and Franciscan University of Steubenville, is a testament to the Church’s commitment to young people. The energizing speakers, sacraments, prayer, music and fun activities all contribute to a successful weekend that draws teens back year after year.
Beyond Steubenville, we see the efforts of many in youth ministry who work to keep the young Church engaged. Parents, youth ministers, campus ministers, clergy, religious and others are among those who keep the fire alive in these young people throughout the year and should be commended for their efforts.
The first Steubenville youth conference took place in 1999, just months after St. John Paul II’s pastoral visit to St. Louis. During his visit the Holy Father told young people that this is a time for training — physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual development. But he also called on them to share in the Church’s mission now.
“Even though you are young, the time for action is now! Jesus does not have ‘contempt for your youth,’” Pope John Paul II said. “He does not set you aside for a later time when you will be older and your training will be complete. Your training will never be finished. Christians are always in training. You are ready for what Christ wants of you now. He wants you — all of you — to be light to the world, as only young people can be light. It is time to let your light shine!”
The Steubenville youth conferences are just one example in which we see these young people shine. As they head back to their faith communities, let us share in their energy and excitement for the faith, and look to them as a model for inviting others into a relationship with our Lord.