CHAPIN—Most people who are familiar with the inside of Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis are probably used to seeing the Colts play football under the lights there.
But when a group of 16 Chapin teenagers and four adults traveled to Indianapolis for the National Christian Youth Conference, they found the sports arena transformed into a place where 23,000 young people could explore and share their faith.
Mary Beth Vernau, an 18-year-old who attends Our Lady of the Lake Church along with others in the group, said the trip left her with lasting impressions of a wider world.
“There are so few of us Catholics here in South Carolina,” she said. “It was humbling and beautiful to see so many people there. It was overpowering. I just felt God flowing through everyone. I really felt moved.”
The teens weren’t the only ones to have powerful experiences during the conference, which was held in November.
Their pastor, Father Andrew Vollkommer, who led the group, talked about how the priests worked in shifts lasting up to three hours as they offered the sacrament of penance to teens, and stood on the 50-yard line to distribute Holy Communion.
He said much of the conference was about living one’s faith, and being on fire with the sacraments.
“I think (the teenagers) came back stronger in their Catholic faith,” Father Vollkommer told The Miscellany after their return. “They’ll be able to bear witness about what it is to be a teenager and a Catholic. They learned you can live your faith and it can be real and meaningful in your life.”
Cassie Vernau, Mary Beth’s mom and a trip chaperone, said the biennial conferences have a lasting value to the church.
“It really touched my heart,” she said. “It was so inspiring to see the future of our church responding to the call to glory. They were so hungry for the truth and for God. The kids were genuinely moved, and they are the future of our parishes.”
Even in the gathering of 23,000 young people, 15-year-old Michaela Rule, who attends Chapin High and Our Lady of the Lake, said one speaker in particular stood out.
“This speaker said that our relationship with God is prayer, and I’ve never heard that before,” Rule said. “I said, maybe I need to start praying more, talking to God more and building up that relationship.”