I absolutely love my alma mater, Franciscan University of Steubenville. I am also aware that as a graduate of FUS who is a youth minister, I fall into a certain stereotype and while I try to defy it by not hugging people and keeping my hands to my sides when I say "and also with you" at Mass, I acknowledge that sometimes I am pretty cliche. I use Lifeteen materials and occasionally St. Mary's press but nothing crazy. I follow Mark Hart on twitter. We attend The March for Life and Steubenville Atlanta. I go to the St. John Bosco Conference each year. I re-read The Catechism of the Catholic Church to avoid a millstone and Evangelii Nuntiandi to be inspired.
It's not that I'm opposed to other views or ways of doing things. It's more that I just feel that I don't have time. I know that my fellow graduates and I are infamous for not checking out other resources and writing it all off as fluff. The days are just so busy that I get into a routine and forget to go outside of it. I also thought NCYC was a little overwhelming and cheesey, so I categorized these as one and the same in my head and didn't give NCCYM a second thought or column in my budget.
When I had 5thousand and Apex Ministries come to Hilton Head to lead retreats in October (I highly recommend both ministries, by the way. Catholic, low-maintenance and engaging) and in addition to swapping all sorts of hipster music topics, they strongly encouraged me to check out NCCYM. When I straight up asked Gene if it would be lame, he replied, "I'm an organizer". Oh.
Plus it was in New Orleans and I had never been. I made reservations.
I realized I had never been to a gathering of just youth ministers-- I love the Bosco Conference at FUS because it's all people who are in ministry for Team Catholic, but it's always comical to swap stories with teachers and DRE's cause we all still have such different challenges. DRE's worry that their catechists are teaching heresy... youth ministers worry that their teens are like, bringing pot on retreats. The cool thing about NCCYM is that it was over 2000 people who knew exactly where you were coming from. Anyone you struck up a conversation with may have been from a different state but still "got it". Even the people from Notre Dame! Who knew us FUS folks had anything in common with them?
NCCYM was also a crazy fun reunion. There was something crazy about walking to the French Quarter for beignets with friends from college, South Carolina and even twitter and all just chatting about fashion, theology and safe environments. The workshops were helpful, but I think the networking and socializing was my favorite. I was even in a flash mob, which you can see here on my new Canadian Friend Clayton's website.
Did it have it's share of cheese? Of course. Old school praise and worship made an appearance in addition to cross-clapping. However, it was cool that there was a collective awareness that this is where we're coming from and this is what we're working with and if we can't laugh about safe environments well then, what can we laugh at? Just like youth ministers need to take time for retreats and ongoing theological training, NCCYM made me appreciate the need for ongoing socializing. I'm rarely cognizant of the fact that I am the only full-time youth minister for team Catholic in my deanery (not to minimize the very competent part-time youth minister in the parish in the next town over). NCCYM made me appreciate what I didn't even realize I had been missing out on. Communio.
After my first NCCYM I can say without a doubt that as long as I'm in youth ministry... I'll be there.