LYNNWOOD – On a rare sunny weekend in January, over 600 youth, young adults, youth ministers and volunteers chose to be indoors for the Archdiocese of Seattle’s annual Catholic Youth Convention.
This year’s theme was “World Youth Day in Seattle,” because the convention coincided with the final two days of the worldwide youth event in Panama. Locally, the usual convention for high school students was joined by a conference for young adults.
“I can devote a weekend to God and see what he says,” said Susan Stiebritz, a young adult from Holy Family Parish in Kirkland, who decided to attend because of struggles in her life. “Hearing how to talk to God was really powerful for me.”
More than 50 parishes from the archdiocese were represented at the January 26–27 convention held at the Lynnwood Convention Center, in addition to groups from parishes in Portland and British Columbia. Archbishop J. Peter Sartain and Auxiliary Bishop Daniel Mueggenborg spoke to the group, and Auxiliary Bishop Eusebio Elizondo sent a video message from World Youth Day in Panama.
Keynote speakers Maria and Adam Lindenau, a married couple from California, shared the story of their relationship and vocation journey, which began as best friends in middle school who bonded over a love of God.
Everyone, Maria Lindenau said, is “called to be Christ to others,” whether through marriage, single life or religious life. She encouraged those attending to know God, “to ask him and to trust him” while discerning their vocations. Adam Lindenau added: “If we don’t know him, how can we understand him if he’s trying to talk to us in our lives?”
“Pray boldly when you ask,” Adam said. “His plan for you is extraordinary. I’m asking you to trust God because he wants everyone to fall in love with him.”
Archbishop J. Peter Sartain spoke to the youth and young adults Saturday afternoon on the theme of accompaniment. Photo: Peter Lobato
Incorporating World Youth Day
The convention included special tie-ins to World Youth Day, the international celebration for Catholic youth that was started by Pope John Paul II in 1985. This year’s theme for the event in Panama was based on a verse from Luke’s Gospel: “I am the servant of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.”
Throughout the weekend in Lynnwood, attendees sang the theme song, “Let Your Will be Done,” and prayed the World Youth Day pilgrim prayer. On Saturday morning, they were surprised to see the video from Bishop Elizondo, who gave his blessing to all in attendance and prayed for their time at the convention.
On Sunday morning, attendees watched part of Pope Francis’ homily at the closing Mass for World Youth Day in Panama City.
“Being a part of a World Youth Day helps us be a part of a church that is bigger than ourselves,” said Lynnwood emcee Aires Patulot, a theology teacher and campus minister at Kennedy Catholic High School in Burien.
Learn from Frassati’s example
The youth and young adults also heard from their archbishop, who spoke Saturday afternoon on the theme of accompaniment. He assured them of God’s love, no matter where they go or if they try to run away from him.
“The greatest accompaniment of all happens in the church and in the sacraments,” especially in the celebration of the Eucharist, Archbishop Sartain said.
He suggested the attendees learn from the example of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, the patron of World Youth Day. As a youth in Italy, Frassati served and befriended the poor of Turin, accompanying them “in the name of Jesus,” the archbishop said.
Frassati, who died of poliomyelitis at age 24, also highly valued Christian friendship; he had a group of friends who prayed and shared the goal of following Jesus, Archbishop Sartain said. “How can I be a friend to people around me?” the archbishop prompted the youth, assuring them that their good conduct, joy and belief in Jesus can bring others to him.
“Christian friendship is always about how we grow in following Jesus,” the archbishop said. “Being a Catholic means that we know Jesus is alive and present in the church.”
More than 50 parishes from the archdiocese were represented at the January 26-27 convention held at the Lynnwood Convention Center. Photo: Peter Lobato
Virtuous friendship and more
Other components of the weekend included break-out sessions on topics including mental health, virtuous friendship, dating as a millennial Catholic and the practical tools of a disciple; praise and worship music and eucharistic adoration; and a “Vocations Café” with booths representing different religious orders, where youth could write down anonymous questions to be answered later by a vocations panel.
High school students had time for discussions with their peers and youth ministers from their parishes, while young adults had a networking session for fellowship and a listening session to discuss their experiences in the church and their communities.
Awards and scholarships were given to youth and young adults who were nominated for outstanding service in the Catholic community.
It was the first youth convention for Ashley Stephen, a high school sophomore who attends Holy Spirit Parish in Kent.
“I came because I wanted to be more involved with the activities going on at my church,” she said. Her favorite part of the weekend was a peace talk led by Nashville Dominican Sister Maria Caeli Parmeter, a teacher at Our Lady Star of the Sea School in Bremerton. “She was really cool,” Ashley said.
‘We have to want the Holy Spirit’
The convention concluded with Sunday morning Mass celebrated by Bishop Mueggenborg, who reflected on the reading from St. Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians, which describes how the body of Christ is made up of many parts.
“What is the work that Christ is wanting to accomplish through your body?” Bishop Mueggenborg asked. He prompted the youth and young adults to think of those around them who lack good Christian mentors, are bound by addictions or self-defeating lies, or are lonely.
Every person has a ministry, Bishop Mueggenborg said, and to determine God’s will in our lives, “we need to be honest and to pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit, we can actually end up working against God rather than with God,” he added.
Bishop Mueggenborg gave every attendee at the convention a book of prayers that he compiled called Thy Kingdom Come, and encouraged them to find prayers in it that are relevant to their lives.
“We have to want the Holy Spirit … and that is why prayer is so critical for every disciple every single day,” Bishop Mueggenborg said.