| By Margaret Ellen Jackson | Correspondent

DCYC 2024 gives glory to God in the highest

The annual Diocesan Catholic Youth Conference was held from Feb. 2-4 in Waco and attended by nearly 2,000 teens, representing parishes in the Diocese of Austin. The weekend consisted of several keynote addresses, Masses, adoration and opportunities for Catholic fellowship. DCYC offered numerous chances for teens to worship personally, while also balancing time for prayer with the greater community.

“My favorite part of DCYC has been getting to see the Lord in a new way,” said Demítria Dahlberg of St. Mary Parish in Taylor. “It’s unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before.”

More than 500 attendees were able to receive the sacrament of confession while at DCYC - an incredible testament to the authentically Catholic experience that the conference provided.

The speakers offered practical tools that can be used to fully understand a relationship with God. Among these useful tools was the “ACTSSS” process, outlined by speaker Gian Gamboa, which consists of A for adoration, C for contrition, T for thanksgiving, and each subsequent S for scripture, supplication and silence.

Young people today are presented with the challenge of evangelization in the face of a culture that so fervently denies and despises God. While talking over dinner or even casual soccer games with my fellow participants, I listened to how many of them are battling against the relativism that runs rampant in our culture.

When speaking of spiritual warfare in his keynote address, Father Jared Cook said, “This is an attack of the devil, and we all have work to do. Satan surrounds us with life-choking deeds,” he continued, “so be vigilant and ready to defend yourself against the devil.”

Attending a public school presents frequent opportunities for religious debate with peers, although such conversations can often seem daunting. Walking into school on the Monday morning following DCYC, however, I felt reinvigorated and better equipped to share the Gospel with my peers who do not yet know Jesus.

In her keynote speech regarding evangelization, speaker Katie Prejean McGrady recounted an instance in which she felt called to share Christ with a stranger. On a recent flight to New York, she met a flight attendant who was traveling home to visit her dying grandmother. While speaking together on the flight, this young woman noticed a rosary in McGrady’s pocket and shared that she had left the Catholic Church several years earlier. To comfort this woman, McGrady gave her the rosary and encouraged her to pray.

Months later, McGrady miraculously ran into this woman again on the same route into New York and discovered she had prayed with her grandmother and had begun attending church again.

Perhaps some teens who heard this anecdote will be encouraged to pray over a peer in need, hand a rosary to a classmate, or even ask a friend to attend Mass with them. In doing so, our generation can share the Lord with a world that does not know him, but hungers for him.

In his homily on Sunday, Father Greg Gerhart shared that by surrendering his life to Christ, the Lord gave him “a deep peace, a great joy, and a burning desire to follow after him.”

In his closing remarks, Father James Misko left teens with a call to remain servants of the Lord always. “Know that Bishop Joe Vásquez is so proud of you all,” he said. “He tells me all the time how proud he is to come to this event every year and look out to see you all: the future of the church, the church itself.”

The shared joy amongst young Catholics provides strong motivation to continue the pursuit of goodness and the imperative defense of our faith. “Seeing the other teens at DCYC have such a longing for the Lord has had a profound impact on me,” said Sadie Dauterive of St. John Neumann Parish in Austin. “Being able to directly witness people my age have a desire to grow closer to the Lord in a deep, authentic way is beautiful. It reminds me that there is hope for the next generation of Catholics, and I am a part of that!”

Margaret Ellen Jackson is currently a high school student in Austin. She is a parishioner of St. John Neumann Parish in Austin.