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placeholder January 4, 2016   •   VOL. 54, NO. 1   •   Oakland, CA

Youths from the Oakland diocese who attended the National Catholic Youth Conference in Indianapolis on the floor at Lucas Oil Stadium after one of the general sessions.

Teens' faith ignited at national conference

Mary Machi, director of faith formation and evangelization at St. Joan of Arc Parish in San Ramon, ticks off the cities she has visited when the National Catholic Youth Conference came to town: Houston, St. Louis, Kansas City, Cincinnati and Indianapolis.

Her first visit to the biennial event was as a last-minute substitute for a youth group leader who couldn't make the journey.

"It was so profoundly moving," she recalled, telling herself, "I don't want to ever miss this."

She described the most recent youth conference, which brought 24,000 teens to Indianapolis, as "three days of keynote speakers, breakout sessions, amazing music, all celebrating the young Church and setting teens' hearts on fire for Christ."

The conference provides the opportunity "to see these teens worshipping God and loving it," she said, "screaming not for Justin Bieber but for God."

She made her most recent journey with 18 youths from St. Joan of Arc, three from St. Isidore Parish in Danville and one from St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Livermore, along with three additional chaperones. While the delegation was small — the Archdiocese of Chicago had more than 500 teens — the East Bay students "came away inspired in their faith, and profoundly moved to share the love of God with others," she said. "They absolutely loved meeting other young Catholics from all 50 states!"

It cost about $1,300 per teen to attend the event Nov. 19-21 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

"We're blessed our parish is very supportive and allows us to fundraise," she said. At the conclusion of Masses on a selected Sunday, Machi tells the parishioners about the upcoming conference, and teens stand by with baskets at the church doors.

Teens say thank you to donors who give $50 with a postcard from the host city; those who donate $100 or more are invited to a January dinner, cooked by the teens, who will also share their stories of faith inspired by the conference.

The postcards contain handwritten notes from the teens, Machi said.

"People of whatever age, when they see young people on fire with their faith, that inspires their own faith," she said. "It can't help but reignite your on faith."

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