By Michael Gresham
The Texas Catholic
With nearly 700 teens, more than 180 adult leaders and 134 staff and volunteers involved, the Dallas Catholic Youth Conference has grown into a massive undertaking.
Despite all that, Jason Deuterman, director of the Diocese of Dallas’ office of youth, young adults and campus ministries, said it is all still done with one simple goal in mind.
“Allow young people to meet Jesus,” Deuterman said. “Nothing more, nothing less.”
This year’s conference was held Feb. 15-17 at the Embassy Suites Hotel/Frisco Convention Center in Frisco. The three-day event drew 690 teens — a 21-percent increase in attendance over the prior year — and culminated in a Mass celebrated by Bishop Edward J. Burns that more than 1,600 people attended. Deuterman said 35 diocesan parishes were represented.
Calling it a transformative weekend of prayer, community and worship, Deuterman said the conference aims to gather high school teens throughout the Diocese of Dallas and surrounding areas for an opportunity to deepen their relationships with Jesus through guest speakers, faith workshops, recreational activities and fellowship.
“We want teens to know that their place in the Christian story, their encounter with the fierce love of a Savior King who yearns for them above all else, will be the change that this world needs,” Deuterman said. “Their story, confirmed in Jesus Christ and joined with the stories of a thousand others, will guarantee that the church in North Texas will never be a monument, but always a movement.”
The theme for this year’s conference recalled the earliest days of the Catholic Church, when the newly converted were referred to as “The Way.”
“We wanted the young people to understand from the very beginning that when the lights faded, when the speakers got back on airplanes, the band went home, and the stage packed up, that the only thing that would remain and never fade would be their encounter with Jesus,” he said. “An authentic relationship with Jesus is and will continue to be the only truth that will define how they live their lives past DCYC—how they follow ‘The Way.’ ”
For Samantha Peña, a member of the youth group from St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church in Plano whose mother signed her up for DCYC without her knowledge, the conference was a pleasant surprise.
“This weekend was extremely, spiritually impactful. The words spoken over those mics still resonate within me,” Peña said. “My questions about my faith were answered and accommodated, and my doubts were destroyed. I would consider myself a much stronger believer in my faith after DCYC.”
Meghan Magill, a parishioner of Our Lady of Angels Catholic Church, said the weekend was more than just a fun time.
“My experience was not only fun, but helped me to discover all the faults that I have had while going through my faith journey,” Magill said. “Not only that but this event allowed me to be around and pray with people that share my faith.”
This year’s event marked the third time Andrew Sullivan of All Saints Catholic Church had participated in DCYC. He said the faithful fellowship keeps bringing him back.
“The camaraderie shared with my youth group at All Saints and the new friends we met throughout the weekend was inspiring because we’re all on the same journey to heaven,” Sullivan said.
A desire to grow closer to Christ fueled St. Patrick Catholic Church parishioner Ysabelle Matta’s decision to attend the conference.
“I come from a school and environment where there is not a lot of Catholic people so I wanted to go to DCYC to learn more about God while also being at a place with other Catholic people,” Matta said. “Going to this event allowed me to realize that even though I was on a spiritual high at that moment, I still needed to maintain this amount of faith every day.”
Deuterman said ultimately offering young Catholics in the Diocese of Dallas an opportunity to encounter Christ is important in today’s world.
“It is easy to lose hope with so many things happening in our world, and even in our church,” Deuterman said. “Yet, when you witness a young person give their life to Christ for the first time, worship at the top of their lungs, pray over another teen, or publicly recommit themselves to living out the Gospel past a simple conference weekend, you know without a doubt that the church in North Texas is fully alive.”