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July 17, 2014 - 12:59 PDT


STEUBENVILLE, OH (July 17, 2014) - Musician Bob Rice officially kicked off the July 11-13 High School Youth Conference with the song "Not Waiting for the Afterlife," but the 1,800 teens freshly arrived at Franciscan University of Steubenville didn't wait for the live music to start their weekend. They spilled out into the aisles to line-dance to "The Cupid Shuffle," form conga lines, and act out the songs from the hit film "Frozen."

By the time host Chris Padgett stepped onstage, nothing could dampen their spirits.

"Maybe you're doing it great, and this year is your best year with God ever. Maybe some of you were invited to come here under false pretenses. Maybe some of you don't even know where you are right now." As the teens laughed, he continued, "No matter your situation, I believe that God has something major in store for you. God has a special message for you and your heart."

As the talks began, the enthusiasm transformed into quiet meditation. Many of the youth lifted up their hands or fell to their knees in worship, reflecting on this year's theme--"God Is."

Youth minister David Calavitta said during the opening, "We all have a different idea, perspective, thought of who God is. And the even greater reality is that God is not who we think he is. He is more. Our thought of God is the single most important thought you will ever have, because your thought of God determines who you let him be in your life."

Padgett encouraged the teens to make themselves comfortable, assuring them that they could stand with their hands raised while singing or stay seated. "You get to be you. You don't have to be like us."

The guest speakers were themselves examples of honesty and sincerity, incorporating their own difficult life experiences--divorce and forgiveness, dating and raising children, agnosticism, miscarriage, even suicide--into their talks.

Matt Fradd, a Catholic speaker from Australia who converted from agnosticism after going to a World Youth Day, examined many of the arguments he once used against God's existence in his talk, "God Is Real."

"When someone says 'There's no scientific proof for God,'" he explained, "the first thing you have to ask is, 'What is science?' People have this deified idea of science, like it's some quasi-deity. Science is an inductive process of investigation that we invented to discover truths about the natural world. So it's right that there is no scientific proof for God because science is concerned with the natural, not the supernatural. It can neither prove nor disprove the supernatural."

This was the third Steubenville youth conference for high school senior Emily Judd from St. Mary's Church in Lowell, Michigan.

"I hope to change myself, and then to lead by example in my parish, so that they want to get closer to the Holy Spirit and God, like I do," she said.

Chris Davis, a junior from Millington, Michigan, who attends St. Francis Xavier Church in Otisville, was one of the teens attending for the first time. He appreciated the environment of the campus. "It's beautiful and serene, and the hilly landscape gives me a sense of peace."

Natalie Robertson, D'Angelo Laaz, and Trinity Travis, all freshmen, traveled six hours from Corydon, Indiana, at the suggestion of their teachers and youth minister at St. Joseph Catholic Church. They were excited at the availability of the sacraments.

"I want to be closer to the fellow kids from church," said Travis, who often works with younger children at the parish. "And develop a more comfortable attitude toward confession."

Many of the other participants were in agreement with this and even waited for two hours for the sacrament of reconciliation.

"I want to have the ability to confess everything, not hide something," Laaz said, standing with his two friends in front of the growing line of teens outside Christ the King Chapel. "As the speakers said last night, there's nothing that the priest wouldn't expect."

Robertson appreciated the dynamism of Father John Parks, who celebrated daily Mass and presided over eucharistic adoration. "He really spoke to me. It applied to my life. That's never happened to me before in a homily."

The high schoolers all proved they could balance their enthusiasm for spontaneous conga lines with a joy-filled reverence in the eucharistic presence of Jesus. Some fell to their knees and many shed tears as Father Parks processed through the fieldhouse with the Eucharist. Youth leaders noted how teens they had known for years, who would normally never be caught crying, showed their vulnerability as they reached toward the monstrance.

"Eucharistic adoration is my favorite part for sure," said Elizabeth Hanna, a junior who attends St. Mary of the Falls Church in Olmstead Falls, Ohio. "You get to be face to face with God. With the music, and everyone around you so emotional, you can feel the Holy Spirit in you."

Father Parks also gave a talk on how to find God in the midst of suffering. He called to mind the story of Simon of Cyrene being forced to carry Jesus' cross for a stretch of the road to Cavalry.

"Is Simon carrying Jesus' cross, or his own cross? Or is Jesus letting Simon carry his cross for a moment to see what it is like to suffer out of love?" he asked as he held up a crucifix for the youth to see. "Jesus made all of your crosses his cross. God has gone into the depths of our suffering, and he's deeper than that. God died in the Nazi camps of Auschwitz. God has been cut up millions of times in the wombs of mothers. God has been assaulted, abused, raped, gone to bed hungry or cold. He's been forgotten, bullied, slandered, maligned, misunderstood. Any suffering you've ever had, God is there with you."

In her talk, "God Is Savior," author Katie Hartfiel said that accepting Jesus should be seen not as merely saying no to sin, but as saying yes to everything that God offers. "It is time for 'No More No's.' When we say yes to God, we receive a love that is beyond our expectations, that is defies death. We are saved for something. We are saved for eternity. For eternal life. For heaven."

Father Parks held a vocations call after Mass, inviting all men and women considering the priesthood or religious life to stand in front of the stage. Approximately two hundred teens came forward to receive a blessing.

"As a priest I perform the public ministry of the Church," he said. "I'm like the hands of the Church, but a lot of the religious life can be hidden. They're like the heart of the Church."

Calavitta reassured all of the youth that their encounter with God would not end once they left the conference. "You shape culture. A lot of the world has used teens your age in a very destructive way, harnessing the power you have to shape and destroy societies. But you can give that power to show others the Kingdom of Heaven. Do not underestimate your power. The very hinge of salvation, the Incarnation, once depended on a 13-year-old girl. All of us are called to say 'we are not too young.'"

Five youth conferences sponsored by Franciscan University of Steubenville were offered simultaneously on July 11-13--Atlanta, Georgia; Springfield, Missouri; Rochester, Minnesota; Orlando, Florida; and Steubenville, Ohio. Twenty youth conferences in total will be held this year, alongside five adult conferences and two new conferences for young adults.

Information on future adult and youth conferences, as well as talks from past events can be found at


Franciscan University of Steubenville
OH, 43952 US
Tom Sofio - Associate Director of Public Relations,


Franciscan University, youth conference, youth ministry


Catholic Schools & Religious Education

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Survey Points to Growing Impact of Franciscan University Youth Conferences on Priestly Vocations
Franciscan University of Steubenville
May 30, 2014 - 6:45 PDT

Media Advisory - Messenger of the Truth documentary to air throughout the U.S. this weekend
May 29, 2014 - 8:35 PDT

RENEW International's Spanish Publication Recognized for Excellence
RENEW International
May 28, 2014 - 8:45 PDT

Scott Hahn's Angels and Saints Blog Tour: May 27 - June 7
Image Books/Random House
May 26, 2014 - 3:41 PDT

Franciscan University Chancellor Honored by Christendom College
Franciscan University of Steubenville
May 23, 2014 - 6:09 PDT

Six Franciscan University Graduates to Enter Seminary, Religious Orders
Franciscan University of Steubenville
May 23, 2014 - 6:02 PDT

Israel welcome Pope Francis with special stamp sheet
Israel Postal Company
May 22, 2014 - 11:58 PDT

The CatholicTV Network to air coverage of Pope Francis' Apostolic Journey to the Holy Land
May 20, 2014 - 12:58 PDT

Renowned boys of St. Paul's Choir School ink international recording deal with AimHigher Recordings
May 19, 2014 - 7:12 PDT

The CatholicTV Network to Air Ordinations to the Priesthood for the Archdiocese of Boston
The CatholicTV Network
May 16, 2014 - 7:55 PDT

Damon Owens to Appear on The CatholicTV Network
The CatholicTV Network
May 15, 2014 - 7:54 PDT

The Catholic University of America Baccalaureate Mass to air LIVE on The CatholicTV Network
May 15, 2014 - 7:32 PDT

Clean comedy cleans up at box office
May 13, 2014 - 12:59 PDT

Cardinal, Bishop, and EWTN CEO Address the Class of 2014
Franciscan University of Steubenville
May 13, 2014 - 10:45 PDT

Saint Benedict Press Named Exclusive Publisher for Catholic Scirpture Study International
Saint Benedict Press, LLC/TAN Books
May 12, 2014 - 1:40 PDT

Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow to Appear on The CatholicTV Network
The CatholicTV Network
May 12, 2014 - 7:53 PDT

Carmel Communications
May 09, 2014 - 10:18 PDT

SoulCore Founders to Appear on The CatholicTV Network
The CatholicTV Network
May 08, 2014 - 11:57 PDT

It's now or never to build a just and humane society
May 08, 2014 - 8:50 PDT

3 Nat'l Catholic Leaders Elected to Nonprofit Board of Directors
Catholic Leadership Institute
May 08, 2014 - 8:46 PDT

Media Advisory - Messenger of the Truth documentary to air in Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo
May 07, 2014 - 10:48 PDT

Father Rocky Hoffman to Appear on The CatholicTV Network
The CatholicTV Network
May 06, 2014 - 9:59 PDT

Catholic Novel Wins National Secular Award
Little Flower Strategies
May 05, 2014 - 12:53 PDT

Mass of Thanksgiving for the Canonization of Pope Saint John XXIII and Pope Saint John Paul II
The CatholicTV Network
May 05, 2014 - 9:58 PDT

Nat'l Catholic Leader Frank Hanna Joins Catholic Leadership Inst. Board of Directors
Catholic Leadership Institute
May 02, 2014 - 6:24 PDT

Father Jim Martin to Appear on The CatholicTV Network
The CatholicTV Network
May 01, 2014 - 9:56 PDT

TAN Books Named Exclusive Publisher for Confraternity of the Precious Blood
Saint Benedict Press, LLC/TAN Books
April 30, 2014 - 11:31 PDT

Media Advisory - Messenger of the Truth documentary to air in Denver and Colorado Springs
April 30, 2014 - 10:39 PDT

What happens when you realize that God's not dead?
April 29, 2014 - 10:20 PDT

April 28, 2014 - 12:20 PDT

World Apostolate of Fatima Co-Hosting Marian Eucharistic Conference
April 28, 2014 - 4:31 PDT

Veritas Conference Champions Authentic Religious Freedom
Franciscan University of Steubenville
April 26, 2014 - 10:18 PDT

Walsh University Hosts Spring Commencement Ceremony, Sunday, May 4 Dr. Maryann Cusimano Love to Keyn
Walsh University
April 24, 2014 - 9:38 PDT

Media Advisory - Messenger of the Truth documentary to air in San Francisco
April 24, 2014 - 7:22 PDT

Media Advisory - Messenger of the Truth documentary to air throughout South Carolina
April 24, 2014 - 7:19 PDT

Franciscan University Solidifies Ties With Historic Landmark- Kartause Maria Thronus Iesu
Franciscan University of Steubenville
April 23, 2014 - 7:26 PDT

Pauline Books & Media
April 22, 2014 - 2:14 PDT

Picking Up Where John Paul II Left Off
Saint Luke Productions
April 22, 2014 - 11:12 PDT

Concert Series Concludes with Let's Sing!
April 22, 2014 - 6:14 PDT

Saint Faustina Drama Comes to Historic Baltimore Church
April 21, 2014 - 7:18 PDT

Massive Online Open Seminar on Women Deacons June 9-July 8, 2014
Hofstra University
April 20, 2014 - 8:27 PDT

Irish Indie Chart Topper for Good Friday 2014
One By One Ministries
April 17, 2014 - 3:06 PDT

Dr. Ben Carson Praises Vitae's 'Compassionate' Efforts
Vitae Foundation
April 17, 2014 - 1:28 PDT

Akron General Hosptial namesWalsh University Student is 2014 Outstanding Student Nurse of the Year
Walsh University
April 17, 2014 - 6:58 PDT

'Life as a Sister'--A Unique Website Goes Live
Sisters of Bon Secours
April 16, 2014 - 1:21 PDT

The CatholicTV Network to Provide Canonization Coverage
The CatholicTV Network
April 16, 2014 - 8:18 PDT

Media Advisory - Messenger of the Truth documentary to air in Montana
April 15, 2014 - 10:47 PDT

Media Advisory - Messenger of the Truth documentary to air in South Dakota
April 15, 2014 - 10:45 PDT

Media Advisory - Messenger of the Truth documentary to air in Oklahoma
April 15, 2014 - 10:44 PDT


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Daily Readings

Reading 1, Isaiah 49:1-6
1 Coasts and islands, listen to me, pay attention, distant peoples. ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 139:1-3, 13-14, 14-15
1 [For the choirmaster Of David Psalm] Yahweh, you examine me and know ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 1:57-66, 80
57 The time came for Elizabeth to have her child, and she gave birth to a ... Read More

Reading 2, Acts 13:22-26
22 he deposed him and raised up David to be king, whom he attested in ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for June 24th, 2016 Image

St. John the Baptist
June 24: John the Baptist was a contemporary of Christ who ... Read More