Youth share faith, music, belonging at annual diocesan conference

A youth raises her hands in joy while singing at the Diocesan Youth Conference held at White Oak Conference Center March 12-14.

A youth raises her hands in joy while singing at the Diocesan Youth Conference held at White Oak Conference Center March 12-14.WINNSBORO—Over 600 high school teenagers and youth ministers converged for faith, friends and fun at the annual Diocesan Youth Conference held March 12–14 at the White Oak Conference Center.

The event celebrated Catholic identity and provided an environment for teens to explore the many facets of their faith. Organized by the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry, this year’s theme was “Legacy.”

It began at 8 p.m. with a session featuring Steve Angrisano, who made his third appearance at the conference.

Angrisano, known for being a dynamic and effective storyteller, spoke about growing up in a close-knit Italian family and how that formed him into the person he is. He related the importance of family and faith when making life decisions.

On March 13, teens took part in workshops, listened to music, and enjoyed free time to socialize and play games.

Angrisano and the other keynote speakers, Mike Patin and Audrey Assad, gave talks and were available for questions or just to talk.

“It is important for our young people to know when they stand up for something like their faith, they are not alone.” Angrisano said. “The most important thing about youth ministry is the relationships you build.”

Diocesan youth leaders offered workshops about Catholic faith, and teens were required to attend two of their choosing. The house band played upbeat praise and worship music throughout the day.

“It’s better than I thought it would be,” Alan Elan said as he danced with his friends. The 15-year-old was attending from St. Mary Magdalene Church in Simpsonville.

Peter Do from Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Greenville said he was inspired by the speakers, skits and music.

“It helps me to go deeper in my faith being around so many people my age,” he said.

The three speakers gave afternoon and evening talks.

Patin, another nationally recognized speaker, used energy, humor, and anecdotes to inspire the youth.

 “The teens are looking for a sense of belonging,” he said. “We are like a booster shot of faith. It’s the parish youth ministers that make all the difference.”

Assad, a Nashville-based singer, songwriter, worship leader and recent convert to the Catholic faith, hosted a women’s session after lunch. Her witness and song held the attention of all present.

“She was just real and her talk touched me in a personal way,” said Mikka Rodriguez of St. Michael Church in Garden City.

The day ended with peer prayer.

On March 14, the conference concluded with Mass celebrated by Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone.

It was the bishop’s first opportunity to attend the youth conference.

Bishop Guglielmone encouraged the teens to consider a religious vocation. He explained that the crosier is a sign of his office and represents the shepherd’s staff.

“The hook at the end was used by the shepherd to pull his sheep back into the flock. I would use it to hook you if I could,” he said with a laugh.