“You are not alone.”
Those four words kept popping up for Angelina O’Rourke during the Summerville teen’s recent trip to the National Catholic Youth Conference in Indianapolis.
She heard them during workshops, in a priest’s advice to her after confession, and while she prayed with thousands of other youth from around the country during adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.
“A priest told me I will never be alone because of God’s love and a million other people who are praying for me,” said Angelina, 16. “My life since then has not and will never be the same because I have truly become closer to my faith and myself.”
Her words echoed in comments from 174 other young people from the diocese who attended the conference Nov. 19-21. They joined 25,000 teens from around the U.S. in attending keynote speeches and small workshops, plus worshipping, singing and praying together.
They traveled with their youth leaders and three diocesan priests: Adorno Father Giovannie Nunez, parochial vicar at Jesus Our Risen Savior Church in Spartanburg; Father Sandy McDonald, pastor of St. John Neumann Church in Columbia; and Father Andrew J. Vollkommer, pastor of Our Lady of the Lake Church in Chapin.
Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone also went to Indianapolis with the group and celebrated a private Mass for them at the conference hotel on Nov. 20.
It was the first time the bishop was able to attend with a group from the Diocese of Charleston.
“I have a real concern in terms of reaching out to young people, and it was so good to be with them,” he said. “It was impressive to see so many youth from around the country spending these days learning more about their faith and sharing it with each other. It was a beautiful thing to see.”
Father Vollkommer said he was one of 100 priests who heard confessions in hourly shifts throughout the conference.
“The confessions, Adoration and the liturgies were all very moving because you could see the Holy Spirit alive in the hearts of the young people who were there,” he said. “I think our youth and those from around the country were really touched and graced by the gifts of the Spirit.”
Megan Johnson, 17, a member of Our Lady of the Lake, said she was especially moved by the performances of well-known musicians such as Matt Maher and the band King and Country.
Youth leader Elizabeth Hudacko, from Our Lady of the Hills Church, said one of the most powerful events was adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, which took place in Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts.
“25,000 kids and it was so quiet you could literally hear the buzz of the light fixtures — that is how quiet and reverent it was,” she said.
Zurima Martinez, a member of Our Lady of the Hills, was impressed with the experience of praying and worshipping with so many fellow Catholics.
“Think of how hard it is just to get a class of 25 students to be quiet, and then imagine all those people being silent for adoration,” she said. “That stuck with me, and so did the experience of praying the ‘Our Father’ along with everyone during Mass. You could feel the real power of the prayer.”
Ross Bullington, 17, of St. Mary Help of Christians Church in Aiken, said the conference opened his eyes to new ways of sharing God’s message.
“It made my faith more evident to me — it’s going to be easier now to share and express it with others in new facets of my life,” he said.