2013 CYC Convention (MT Catholic/Eric Connolly photo)

By Eric Connolly

We are witnesses, all of us, witnesses to the power of Christ’s love.

A message of witness was the foundation for Bishop George Leo Thomas’s homily during a cathedral Mass celebrated when nearly 400 people were in Helena for the Catholic Youth Coalition Convention, April 12-14.

The annual convention’s theme, “Cast Your Net,” was based on the Sunday, April 14, reading of John 21:1-19, in which the risen Christ appears to disciples on the Sea of Tiberius and tells them to “cast the net over the right side of the boat,” resulting in a catch so large the net could not be pulled in. Convention speakers focused on different aspects of this message, but particularly on the call to come closer to Christ.

2013 CYC Convention (MT Catholic/Eric Connolly photo) Father Sean Weeks, a priest at St. Pius X Parish in Portland, Ore., keynoted the convention on Saturday.

Father Weeks told the story of his call to the priesthood, a vocation he had not anticipated, and spoke about the importance of the Easter season.

“We need to wake up, and Easter is our opportunity to wake up, because he is risen, our Lord is alive,” he told the convention crowd at the Lewis and Clark County Fairgrounds. “But the problem is, sometimes we get so caught up in our way of living that we don't approach him and we don't walk in our lives as if he’s alive. We approach him as if he is some type of story.”

Father Weeks also said the people at the convention could not go back to their old ways after having an experience with Christ, much like Peter in the Gospel passage, who returned to his old life of fishing and caught nothing.

2013 CYC Convention (MT Catholic/Eric Connolly photo) “This casting our net, it’s not that I think we don't cast it, were casting it all the time. I think that we’re casting it, and we don't catch anything other than what the world has to offer sometimes, which is filled with negativity,” Father Weeks said.

“When we cast our nets there, we do catch something but it’s nothing that will bring us peace. We need to cast them in his direction. The disciples caught an incredible number of fish when they did what he told them to do.”

The Saturday schedule included worship music, youth keynote speakers, breakout sessions led by Reach Youth Ministry of Helena and Perpetual Motion Ministry of Dallas, gender-specific catechesis, a banquet, the cathedral Mass and a dance.

2013 CYC Convention (MT Catholic/Eric Connolly photo) The keynote speaker on Sunday morning was Sister Kateri Mitchell, executive director of the Tekakwitha Conference and a member of the Mohawk Nation. Sister Mitchell was a key person in the sainthood cause of St. Kateri Tekakwitha, canonized last October. A miracle attributed to St. Kateri involved the healing of a boy in Seattle, after Sister Mitchell took a relic to his bedside and through prayer, the intercession of St. Kateri was sought.

Sister Mitchell told convention-goers the story of the life of St. Kateri, and said the story fit the weekend’s theme perfectly.

“At the time of her baptism, when she was 20 years old, she asked a Jesuit priest if they would baptize her,” Sister Mitchell said. “It was because of her encounter, because of her understanding of this great wonder, the Creator, the almighty one, who got hold of her and did not let her go.

“Talk about casting a net—she was caught, and she loved the depth that this God was able to draw her into.”

2013 CYC Convention (MT Catholic/Eric Connolly photo) Joan Sewell, a youth minister at Immaculate Conception Parish in Deer Lodge, said the impact of the convention is evident in her parish throughout the year.

“The kids that come here, they are awakened to a whole new thing, with Jesus being involved in their lives,” she said. “They leave here with a hunger for more.”

“This convention in particular has helped me realize what I need to do, to get up and follow Christ,” said Kyra Butts, a youth participant from Risen Christ Parish in Kalispell.

“I just need to let myself go to Christ. That’s how it has changed me.”

Published in The Montana Catholic Online, Volume 29, No. 4, April 19, 2013.