Christ’s daily presence in Eucharist transforms young hearts at 2014 DCYC

By Jerry Circelli


July 28, 2014


Leilani and Paige from St. Mary Parish in Dublin participate in activies at the DCYC 14 youth conference held  July 11-13 at the DFW Airport Hyatt Regency Hotel. Nearly 1,000 high school students attended the conference this year. (Photo by Donna Rychaert/NTC)


Jesus had a presence that filled the room for nearly 1,000 high school students attending the Fort Worth Diocesan Catholic Youth Conference (DCYC) July 11-13 at the DFW Airport Hyatt Regency Hotel.

During this year’s 19th annual gathering, inside the 5,000-square-foot ballroom converted into a gathering and worship space, many Catholic youth spent more time with the Lord than they had ever done before in a single weekend.

Christ’s presence here was in the form of the Eucharist, before them not only during three daily Masses, but also during a Benediction and Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament Friday evening. Then, during a special Procession of the Eucharist Saturday night, they literally followed Christ.

There was plenty of fun and games, interesting workshops, productive meetings, motivational speakers, and inspiration praise songs, but it was Christ who was always front and center at this year’s DCYC event. To make time for the special Eucharistic events, some usual activities were not on this year’s schedule. Although many teens admitted they were a bit disappointed when they first heard about the changes, they said they would not have had it any other way after spending time with Jesus in a manner they had never experienced before.

“This was my fourth conference in a row, and it was very different,” said Annette Calderon of Sacred Heart Church in Comanche. “I liked it so much because of Adoration. It was like the Holy Spirit entered the room. You could feel the emotion, not coming from material things and dances, but coming from Christ, because He is the risen one. It was very emotional.”

Teen emcees from throughout the diocese lead their peers in worship the opening night of DCYC. (Video by Jerry Circelli)

During Benediction and Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament on Friday night, youth spent approximately one hour after Mass in both prayer and silence, kneeling before the Eucharist exposed on the altar in a monstrance — a large, golden vessel, designed for that purpose.

On Saturday, youth followed Christ as part of a Eucharistic Procession inside the hotel ballroom. The procession is associated with the Feast of Corpus Christi, celebrating the gift of the real presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist. It proved to be an engaging and memorable experience for the faithful that evening.

“I really liked the Eucharistic Procession because it made the conference Christ-focused,” said Austin Tarver of St. Ann Church in Burleson. It gave us a chance to focus on Him this year.”

Involved in the celebration of the Masses, Benedictions, Adorations,and special prayer were Bishop Michael Olson, diocesan Vocations Director Father James Wilcox, Father Jonathan Wallis, Deacon Don Warner, and 16 seminarians.

Students participate in Mass with Bishop Olson at the DCYC 14 Youth Conference
Student participate in Mass during the DCYC 14 Youth conference. (Photo by Donna Rychaert/NTC)

In his opening remarks to DCYC attendees, Kevin Prevou — director of the diocesan Office of Youth, Young Adult, and Campus Ministry — said that Bishop Olson “has really challenged us to deepen our faith experience during this conference.”

Youth leaders were quick to take on the challenge and embrace the new experience.

From atop the stage set up in the hotel ballroom, one of the DCYC emcees, Nathan Werts of St. Stephen Church in Weatherford, told fellow attendees, “Who doesn’t like to spend time with their best friend and gather with people you love? Eucharistic Exposition gives us another opportunity to be in the presence of Christ and to grow deeper in our relationship with Him.”

In his opening homily Friday evening, Bishop Olson discussed the DCYC theme “Transform Me.” He told the hundreds of teens, who filled the ballroom worship space to capacity, “We come together here called by name, called by Jesus to become his Church, to love Him unconditionally as He loves us and to be transformed — transformed by his grace. Coming together as God’s people, let us acknowledge our sins, those things that we cling to that keep us from Christ, that we might prepare ourselves to celebrate the sacred mysteries.”

The bishop went on to say, “To be a disciple of Jesus and to live our discipleship means that each one of us has to allow Him to ‘transform me,’ to transform each one of us.

DCYC Participants worship Christ in the Eucharist in Adoration on the conference’s opening night. (Video by Jerry Circelli)

“The theme is not transform myself,” the bishop said, but instead to invite Christ into our lives to be central to the transformation.

“Every Mass we celebrate transforms the ‘me’ in each one of us,” the bishop said. “And it transforms ‘me’ into one of ‘us.’ It transforms each and every ‘me’ in this room into ‘us’ — the Church in communion with Christ and our brothers and sisters, those present physically and those throughout the world.”

The theme “Transform Me” underscored the message of Pope Francis on World Youth Day 2014. In that message, the pope focused on the beatitude, “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3).

“The Beatitudes of Jesus are new and revolutionary. They present a model of happiness contrary to what is usually communicated by the media and by the prevailing wisdom,” the pope said in his statement. “A worldly way of thinking finds it scandalous that God became one of us and died on a cross! According to the logic of this world, those whom Jesus proclaimed blessed are regarded as useless, ‘losers.’ What is glorified is success at any cost, affluence, the arrogance of power and self-affirmation at the expense of others. … Jesus challenges us, young friends, to take seriously his approach to life and to decide which path is right for us and leads to true joy.”

Locally, Prevou said he is inspired by the pope’s message and outreach to youth.

Bishop Olson leads the Eucharisitic Procession July 12. (Video by Jerry Circelli)

“The pope has asked all of us to remember how important young people are in our communities, not only for our future, but for right now,” Prevou said. “Let’s challenge them to really take their faith and grow, and to share it with others.”

Keynote speaker Jackie Francois underscored the bishop’s message and was an instant hit with her young audience. Through quick but charming wit, relevant and timely humor, along with inspirational guitar and vocals, Francois set the stage for some serious discussions. There was only silence in the room when Francois set her guitar down for heart-to-heart talks with the teens.

Francois asked youth to acknowledge and confess their sins. Through Reconciliation and allowing God to grow in their hearts, she said, they could follow the paths of saints. It is no secret, she said, that saints sinned, but they learned to grow in faith and overcome their shortcomings.

Francois said that if she lined up people on stage who were egregious sinners, the audience would see similar personalities in all of the people associated with their sins. “That’s because sin dulls people, makes them phony,” she said. “Sin makes us clones.”

On the other hand, Francois asked the youth to imagine holy people lined up on the stage, such as St. Francis of Assisi, St. John Paul II, Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, St. Nicholas, and others.

“You know what? If I lined them all up here, they’d all be completely different,” Francois said.

Keynote speaker Jackie Francois plays guitar during her presentation. (Video by Jerry Circelli)

“And God is calling you to be a saint, because you are called to be with God in heaven. God is calling you to be different in the world because He wants to transform your hearts and transform the world for good.”

“God is calling you to be a saint. God is calling you to be different.”

The first step, she said, involves “admitting that you are not perfect.” Like any multi-step program for improvement, the first action in growing closer to God requires that “you admit that you are not perfect. You have to admit that you have a problem. Guess what? I have a problem and it’s called sin.”

Francois continued, “You have to admit that you are a sinner, because that’s when God can say, ‘All right, now I can do something.’” She then led teens in a moving song titled “Lord, I need you,” by Matt Maher.

Through the messages they heard from the bishop, the keynote speaker, and their peers who served as emcees, teens lined up by the hundreds for the sacrament of Reconciliation with 25 priests who visited Saturday evening.

While the energy, enthusiasm, and devoutness of the teens at the conference gave hope for the future of the Church, Bishop Olson emphasized that their role in today’s Church is also important.

Hundreds of teens join together in worship at the close of the conference. (Video by Jerry Circelli)

“I feel a lot of hope in the present, and not just for the future,” Bishop Olson told the North Texas Catholic.

The bishop discussed his motivation for being deeply involved in DCYC 2014.

“I feel my responsibility to be a pastor, to help them to learn the faith, to share the faith with others,and also to provide an opportunity for them to strengthen each other in the faith.”

It is important, Bishop Olson said, for youth “to be aware that they’re part of one big, universal Church and also the local Church of the Diocese of Fort Worth, which includes 28 counties.”

Events such as DCYC, he said, give youth “a chance to get together and meet young people of their own age, of their same faith. … And this gives youth a sense of solidarity,” said the bishop, “and knowledge that they’re not alone.”


Miraculous results: In only one hour, students master early Church chants

Father Jonathan Wallis teaches teens how to chant. (Video by Jerry Circelli)

At the dozens of workshops presented at the Fort Worth Diocesan Catholic Youth Conference, teens chose from topics they hoped would help them grow in their faith.

One in particular that struck a resounding note at the gathering was a workshop titled, “Learn to Chant,” and was conducted by Father Jonathan Wallis.

In only one hour at two different sessions, several teens learned not only about the history of music and chants in the Catholic Church, but how to perform them as well.

During Saturday evening prayer, Fr. Wallis led his students in chant and the resulting music was nothing short of remarkable.

“I knew what they were capable of,” said Fr. Wallis, after the prayer session, “but they were even better than I expected.”

The priest explained, “The purpose of the workshop was just to connect them with their musical heritage.”

There was a synergy, Fr. Wallis added, when the young voices came together.

“Each person brings his or her own talents, and at the exact same time when you come together as a whole, there’s something even greater that takes place when all voices are unified in praise and glory of almighty God.”

One of the chanters, Austin Tarver of St. Ann Church in Burleson said, “Fr. Wallis is a good teacher, I can tell you that.”

Jesus had a presence that filled the room for nearly 1,000 high school students attending the Fort Worth Diocesan Catholic Youth Conference (DCYC) July 11-13 at the DFW Airport Hyatt Regency Hotel. During this year’s 19th annual gathering, inside the 5,000-square-foot ballroom converted into a gathering and worship space, many Catholic youth spent more time with the Lord than they had ever done before in a single weekend.

Published (until 8/4/2114)