Teens from across the diocese will get to "Know Mercy" at this year's diocesan youth convention. Pope Francis' call for a Jubilee Year of Mercy throughout 2016 inspired the theme of the 64th annual gathering of Catholic teens.
"A big focus of our weekend will be the works of mercy, both the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. It's a great treasure for our Church and I think sometimes they either get missed or overlooked, or we don't have the opportunity to spend a lot of time exploring those works of mercy, and even putting them into practice in our own lives," said Kathryn M. Goller, director of the diocesan Department of Youth and Young Adult Ministry, which sponsors the convention. "This convention gives us such a great opportunity to teach those works of mercy and help the young people engage in them, but in very dynamic ways. It won't be memorizing lists from a textbook. They'll be having an opportunity to live out those seven corporal works of mercy in the expo this year."
Service projects incorporating the corporal works of mercy will be held in the grand ballroom of the Adam's Mark Hotel at the start of the convention. Ideas presented include packing meals to feed the hungry and writing letters to inmates as a way of tending to the imprisoned. Details are being finalized. The spiritual works of mercy will be addressed during Saturday evening's reconciliation service. A mercy walk involving seven different prayer experiences, including a labyrinth, rosary and Lectio Divina, is planned.
"I'm excited to be able to name the works of mercy for the young people, help them to understand what they are, and give them an experience of living it right there at the convention," said Goller. "But the bigger hope is we give them enough exposure to the works of mercy so that they take it forward. After convention there is still a lot of the Year of Mercy left and a lot of their lives left to be putting those works of mercy into practice. Living these works of mercy is part of being a disciple."
Stephanie Clouarte Davis from the Diocese of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, promises to engage, inspire and ignite the conventioneers as keynote speaker for the event. Davis uses her faith to turn insecurities and weaknesses into triumphs.
Mary Beth Coates, director of the Office of Lifelong Formation, coordinated a workshop for high school and confirmation Catechists to be held during Saturday's lunchtime session. Keynote speaker Davis will lead the workshop, which will focus on "Learning to be a Faith Witness." It promises to better equip catechists to evangelize with their young people.
"When we're doing faith formation with older kids, the time comes to really invite these teenagers to think more personally about their faith and putting it into action," Coates said. "So, the type of catechist that is needed on the faith journey with high school students are adults who not only know their faith, but can witness to their faith and can share their faith appropriately and can engage young people in thinking and acting more critically about their own faith journey as well."
The workshop is for all catechists and adults. Coates hopes to attract those who do not usually attend the convention.
"It's for everyone, whether you've been involved in faith formation for a year or for 20, 30, 40, 50 years. The role of the catechist in adolescent ministry is more to be a faith witness than to be an educator. That's really the emphasis of this workshop," she said.
The convention will take place at the Adam's Mark Hotel in downtown Buffalo on Feb. 26-28, two weeks later than usual. The change comes due to conflicts brought about through winter break that many schools will have during President's Day weekend.
"Lots of families use that as time for vacation. Many schools, because they don't have classes, use that time for an extended trip with their students," said Goller. "We don't want to make kids choose between convention and a family vacation."
For more information visit www.dobyouth.org.