Fr. Chris Ortega of St. Teresa Catholic Church, Albany, kneels before the Eucharist during Adoration on the second day of the three-day Diocesan Youth Conference held this year at the Edgar H. Wilson Convention Center in Macon.

Broken, Forgiven, and Loved

Originally Appeared in : Vol. 100 No. 03

Caroline Ebberwin, Director of Youth Ministry, spoke with Tim Williams during the Diocesan Youth Conference held in Macon Jan. 31 — Feb. 2.

What is DYC?

DYC is our Diocesan Youth Conference. It is a time for all high school youth around the diocese to come together with their youth ministers collectively, to praise, to learn and to grow in community. It is an opportunity to get to hear from a lot of different speakers, some on the national level, some from our own community. We come together with other people from every corner of the diocese to get to know them and get to know that we are all the church collectively.

What is the theme for this weekend conference?

The theme of this weekend is “Broken, Forgiven, and Loved.” We are using St. Peter’s story to play this out.

We see that we all have times of brokenness. And we want to give students a time to reflect on those times. We have times for confessions during the weekend, for forgiveness. We have immediate responses to that brokenness that might be exposed during the talks and during sharing and adoration, which is very moving. You put kids in front of Christ and he does that. So we have an adoration chapel, through the whole weekend.

I wanted to use St. Peter because you see the difference between St. Peter and Judas. They both betrayed, and there are times that we fall, there are times that we’re not living life fully for Christ. Both of them betrayed. But St. Peter became this beautiful leader that we still point to. And he was the foundation of our church. And Judas had despair. And so the only difference is that we give that despair to Christ.

Why is it so important for these students who are probably involved in some ministry with their local parishes, and their adult volunteers to help as well? Why is it so important to get all of them together in this kind of bigger, larger church like this every year?

It’s important to get students from all over the diocese because we are a collective church. We’re all many parts to one body. We have experiences that each other can learn from. And, it can be humbling sometimes.

Coming together collectively to worship and to love is exactly what Christ wants. He doesn’t want us to be isolated, he wants us to share it.

But on a wider level why is this so exciting? What makes this weekend fun and exciting for you?

I could talk for four hours of how exciting this is! As an organizer, I’ve seen the Holy Spirit pour so many things into this weekend. I’ve seen people step up to the plate who have different gifts, an array of gifts, and want to share in praying for the conference. This abundance of talent is exciting because every single person has some role and every single type of personality can participate. That’s awesome. Our speaker this year is Katy Prejean McGrady and the emcee is Father Chris Ortega.

If you have one thing you want a student to take away from this weekend what would it be?

The one thing to take away from this is that they are loved. And I think that’s on multiple levels. One, that your peers love you. Your youth ministers love you. And most of all, you are loved by Christ.

How many attendees are here this year?

We have 206 youth attending the conference. And we get up to about 250 with all the people helping out and such.
This year, we brought in about 12 Catholic vendors who have Catholic gear for us to wear, but also we invited some religious brothers and sisters to represent their orders and to speak with students about discerning joining their community or learning more about their community.

What is it like for some of the adults? Maybe you e-mail back and forth with your peers, but here you get to see and meet everyone this weekend? What’s that like?

Something that our department is trying to do this year is bring deaneries together. Throughout the year, I’m able to meet with these groups of people from different areas, these groups of ministers and DREs. I see them on their territory and being able to collectively see them, know them, and share here is really great. I get to hear a lot of people recommend young adults to help out with different things. So getting their input, getting them to lead talks, getting them to help out with various things. I am just overwhelmed by how amazing the people who volunteer in our diocese are. They pour out everything they have.

Another thing on that is that this year we tried to add a youth ministers track. We had three sessions during the major breakout sessions, for the men and women volunteers and professionals. We also had two different tracks that youth ministers could participate in there.

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