'Ignite My Heart, I burn For You' DCYC's conference theme draws over 1,400 youth

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Juan Guajardo / Correspondent

North Texas Catholic

DCYC youth from Holy Trinity process in carrying the banner representing their parish

DCYC youth from Holy Trinity process in carrying the banner representing their parish.

More than 1,400 junior high and high school youth from 45 parishes from throughout the diocese attended the 16th annual Diocesan Catholic Youth Conference July 13-15 at the DFW Hyatt Regency Hotel, where they learned how to share their gifts and faith with their peers.

Titled “Ignite My Heart, I Burn For You,” this year’s conference featured big name presenters like Mike Patin, a national speaker with experience in youth ministry and high school teaching; Judy McDonald, a professional comedian for the past 16 years, and life-long Catholic; and Roy Petitfils, author  and professional counselor at Pax Renewal Center in Lafayette, Louisiana. Presenters ranging from priests, counselors, ministers, and religious also provided 85 workshops and sessions — the most ever at DCYC — focusing on how teenagers can strengthen their faith, find their God-given gifts, and put them into action.

“Whatever I learned here I’d like to take out,” said 16-year-old Cristian Diaz from St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Keller. “Like showing my faith… I do the sign of the cross, I pray before I eat, but I do it myself. I want to express my religion for what it really is. I hope to take that out to the big world.” Diaz said he plans to use his people skills to reach out to those who are sometimes left out and to be there for friends going through tough situations.

It’s a message that Mike Patin focused on during his keynote sessions where he detailed for the teens how they could find their gifts and outlined practical ways for how they could share those gifts.

Patin shared the acronym G.O.D (“G” for gifts, “O” for offer, and “D” for do something) to instruct the teens to remember their gifts, to offer their gifts to God, and to include Him in their lives -- and to do something with their talents now, not later in life; to not be afraid of sharing them.

“Too many of us lock God in the Church,” Patin said. “I want young people and grown-ups to be on fire. What juices you up and what other people see you’re good at; I’ve got a feeling there’s this little thread between the two, and I think that’s what sparks God in us all.”

That theme continued during a keynote by Roy Petitfils, who encouraged the teens to remember that they are children of God and they should not be defined by their disappointments, their rejections or their habitual sin — all of which lead to shame and keeps them from sharing their love with the world.

“You were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within you. It’s not just in the pope, it’s not just in the bishop, it’s not just in the big, bald, strikingly handsome, funny and articulate speaker on stage, ” said Petitfils, making a joking reference to himself. “It’s in all of us in a unique way, and the reason you were born is to share that. But you will not share that as long as you continue to live in shame.”

For the first time the conference also featured gender specific sessions focusing on male and female spirituality and obstacles specific to each of the genders. Petitfils and keynote speaker and comedian Judy McDonald gave the presentations.

McDonald, in the female session, addressed issues particular to high school females, acknowledging to her female audience that they might have holes in their lives, but that they can find support from their parish priest, youth ministers, relatives, parents, or a sister or friend -- and also in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

“There’s holes, holes happen, but God doesn’t make holes,” McDonald said. “He picks us up out of them.

“That’s the kind of God we have, we have a God who loves us and wants us to succeed.”

Petitfils, in the male spirituality session, acknowledged how young men are often confronted by distorted meanings of what it means to be a man, but that to be a real man means providing spiritually and emotionally by listening, protecting others by standing up for those who can’t defend themselves, and bringing pleasure to others while exercising integrity and sharing their gifts.

“Your happiness in life and your success, however you define that, spiritual, emotional, physical, financial, job, career, whatever, will be directly proportional to your willingness to do a few things each day that you don’t feel like doing,” Petitfils told his young audience. “And secondly, refrain from doing a few things each day that you want to do.”

Mike Waldon, youth minister at St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Carrollton, said the gender sessions were a positive addition to the conference, noting that the high school male session tackled major issues affecting youth, like pornography, Internet addiction, and drug use.

“It gives you a different dynamic and it allows the guys to be guys and the girls to be girls, and they don’t feel like they have to put on airs to impress the other,” Waldon said. “It allows them to be who they are and also hit the topics a little more bluntly.”

Lifetime Achievement Award  honorees, Virginia and John Webb are pictured with  Kevin Prevou, diocesan director of Youth Ministry.T he Webbs have been youth  ministers at Sacred Heart for 24 years and have been involved in youth ministry  for 30 years.

Lifetime Achievement Award honorees, Virginia and John Webb are pictured with Kevin Prevou, diocesan director of Youth Ministry. The Webbs have been youth ministers at Sacred Heart for 24 years and have been involved in youth ministry for 30 years.

The second day of the conference ended with Bishop Kevin Vann presenting the Lifetime Achievement Award for Catholic Youth Ministry to John and Virginia Webb, long-time youth ministers at Sacred Heart Parish in Comanche.

Virginia, 81, and John, 79, have been the youth ministers at Sacred Heart for 24 years and have been involved in youth ministry for 30 years. Together they teach Confirmation classes at Sacred Heart and have brought teens to the conference each year since DCYC started in 1995, often helping them raise money to do so.

“We just enjoy it, that’s keeping us young,” John Webb said.

Both were surprised and grateful for the award, which the bishop personally handed to John.

“It’s just a way of life,” Virginia Webb said of their involvement with youth. “It keeps us so busy we stay out of trouble.”

Even though they are part of a small and distant parish (Comanche is 126 miles from the DFW Hyatt), the couple has consistently brought large groups of kids to DCYC. One year they brought 54 and this year they brought 38.

“They both have had medical conditions for the last five years, but they don’t quit,” said Kevin Prevou, diocesan director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry. “They get out of the hospital, but they go right back to helping in youth ministry. They’re so positive. They really believe in the gifts of young people.”

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Prevou said The Lifetime Achievement Award given at DCYC each year will be renamed the John and Virginia Webb Award in their honor, starting with next year’s DCYC.

Bishop Vann wrapped up the weekend with a special Mass for the youth. After blessing the whole gathering with Holy Water, he lifted up one of the altar candles and told the gathering how one of those candles caught him on fire once as a young priest. Just like being literally on fire pushed him into action, he encouraged the youth to let the flame of faith do the same for them.

“The flame, the candle, symbolizes our faith which is the theme of the weekend. It is to remind us that we are to go into action,” Bishop Vann said. “We are not just to sit still. But that greatness can fill us, surround us with the love of Jesus Christ so much that we don’t just keep it, we go out, we go into action, we are spurred on to do something for the Lord, for ourselves, our brothers and sisters, the whole world.

“Let that light of God shine and that flame of faith show the way to go and be moved into action,” he continued.

He concluded with a warning: “Just don’t get near any candles, just hold them out like this.”

More than 1,400 junior high and high school youth from 45 parishes from throughout the diocese attended the 16th annual Diocesan Catholic Youth Conference July 13-15 at the DFW Hyatt Regency Hotel, where they learned how to share their gifts and faith with their peers.

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