Thursday, December 1, 2011

The End is Nigh.....

These last three weeks in the semester always amaze me. First, because every semester, they are so full of projects, papers, and presentations. Second, because somehow I naively think that each subsequent semester will be different. Which it isn't. The Monday after Thanksgiving Break, I'm sprinting in a race that does not provide a break until at least Wednesday during finals weeks.

I am thankful, however, that I will be able to truly enjoy the break in Christmas Break (unlike the "break" of Thanksgiving Break). I'm also thankful a couple of days where I could take a break to spend time with my family, Thanksgiving Dinner, and Christmas Tree escapades with my Mom. Add on top of that coffee with friends, a night out with some more friends, and most of a HUGE unit project completed, and that's my break in a nutshell.

Of course, I can't forget about the National Catholic Youth Conference, which was technically a precursor to my break, since I skipped out on Thursday and Friday in order to go. This year the conference was in Indiana, so it wasn't a terrible long bus ride to get there.

Plus, we had a great group of kids...
We brought a bunch of attention to our group with our flashing Mohawks and glasses, but that made trading with other groups much more enjoyable!

See, much more diverse head ware! And this wasn't even the last night.

But it wasn't just about the hats and trading and meeting new people from all over the United States (even Hawaii had a group attend!). It was the fellowship and strength that came from knowing that you weren't alone. 

23, 000 Catholic teenagers in one place at one time is truly inspirational. All those times when faith seems to far away, when you feel like the only one who's ever struggled in life, seems so distant when you speak to any of the attendees. Everyone had a story to tell, and some were able to share their stories with the entire audience. 

We attended large group sessions in the morning, where phenomenal speakers talked to us about God, how we need to make room for him in our lives, the multitude of ways we can serve him, the promise of our eternal home in heaven. We attended small workshops, where even more amazing speakers continued to share the love of God through their respective ministries. Jason Evert and his wife Crystalina spoke to a packed hall about the important of valuing our sexuality and the gift God has given us in marriage. Pam Heil spoke about the dating game that many youth play today, and how we are denying ourselves the happiness God has in store. Comedian Judy McDonald made as laugh as she related her experiences living a Catholic Life. Steve Angrisano spoke about living our faith to the fullest. And those were just the workshops I attended! 

Besides workshops, there were hundreds of booths and activities available, including games and service projects.  Reconciliation was available throughout the entire conference, and some groups even got to explore a little of Indianapolis. 

Needless to say, it was a wonderful experience, one I feel blessed to have been able to experience for a third time. It's true, I saw the conference through different eyes as a chaperone this time instead of a student, but the experience still offered me a chance to look to myself and see where I needed to change my life, what I needed to do to include God. 

Given the opportunity, I'd go again....even if it means I get another enchilada on the rocks.

P.S. Special thanks to Stasia Nykoluk for the wonderful photos. This was another time I really wished I had a camera, but I'm so appreciative others captured the experience and shared them! 

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