The diocesan Youth Board wants you to know the "True Story" of Jesus Christ and is inviting everyone to the Youth Convention to hear it.
This year's convention, held March 2-4 at the Adam's Mark Hotel in downtown Buffalo, will offer prayer opportunities, service projects and learning experiences to help teenagers grow in their faith. The event is planned by teens for teens. The Youth Board breaks down into committees to plan the various events and sessions.
The theme, "True Story," derives from the Scripture readings from that weekend's Mass and reflects the goal of the Youth Board to tell the conventiongoers who Jesus really is, rather than the distorted version they may hear from other sources.
Maria Fontaine, 17, from Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish in Darien Center, has been working to plan the Sunday afternoon liturgy with Bishop Richard J. Malone. Focus will be on Matthew 21:12, when Jesus entered the temple and began flipping over tables in anger. "That's like His most human moment," Fontaine said. "We can connect most to it because of how human He is in that scene versus the more Godly (image of) healing people. So, it's the true story of Jesus and why He's here for us."
Unique this year will be two guest speakers.
Doug Tooke, from Helena, Mont., combines stories and humor with Scripture testimony to reach young Catholics. He works closely with Frank Mercadante, who spoke at the 2017 convention.
"Doug and Frank worked with us to build this theme. So, given that he worked with us to build it, it seemed a natural next move that he would be the one to come to present it for us," said Michael Slish, program coordinator for the Department of Youth & Young Adult Ministry.
Sterling Jaquith, from Boise, Idaho, calls herself a saint trainer. The author of "Be Mercy" and "Catholic Mom Challenge" hosts the weekly podcast "Coffee & Pearls," where she shares wisdom with Catholic mothers. "She has a good story and it fits in well with the theme," said Slish.
In keeping with the theme, breakout sessions will deal with learning how to love and appreciate one's own story, even the parts with pain and suffering, and learn how to write the next chapter through college and careers.
"To find God in our own stories and share with others," Slish said summing it up.
Other details are being finalized. The Department of Youth & Young Adult Ministry wants to partner with Catholic Relief Services or Friends of Night People for a service project at the convention expo, with representatives explaining their mission.
"It is our hope that by working with those agencies and having them present at the convention. What we really want is to have those people there to give a little more depth to the project, so that it's not just, 'I'm going to make something,' but, 'I'm going to make it and I'm going to learn about the person in the community that's going to take it. I'm going to have this opportunity to learn the story of the person I am serving," said Slish.
Praise and worship, small group discussions, and the big dance round out the weekend. The annual Youth Convention draws 800 teens from across the Diocese of Buffalo to make friends and share their faith.
"It's a good experience to go and see that many people your age all there for the same reason," said Lucas Robertson, 16, from St. Christopher Parish in Tonawanda. "I go to public school, so I don't get religion daily like a private school student would. It makes you feel like you're part of a group."
Fontaine looks forward to the reconciliation service, saying, "It's like a door that has been opened for you so you can walk back toward your faith if you stranded away."
Deadline for Convention registration is Friday, Jan. 26. For more information contact 716-847-8789 or firstname.lastname@example.org.