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.
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.
“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
“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.
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
“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.”
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
“I just need to let myself go to Christ. That’s how it has
Published in The Montana Catholic Online, Volume 29, No. 4, April 19, 2013.