WINNSBORO—High school students took a journey along the Road to Emmaus at the 28th annual High School Youth Conference held recently at White Oak Conference Center.
Nearly 750 teens from 35 parishes enjoyed a weekend of music, guest speakers, workshops, team sports and skits performed by the Diocesan Youth Evangelization Team.
As the theme for the 2018 conference, “The Road to Emmaus,” the story of Jesus accompanying two disciples on their walk from Jerusalem was ideal for this particular audience, said Angele Drouilhet of the Diocesan Missionary Team.
“It’s a story that we hear a lot, but when you don’t understand the history behind it, it’s not as meaningful,” Drouilhet said. “It’s really neat to hear the speakers break down that story. For a lot of these teens, when they hear that, the light bulb probably does go off. It’s like, ‘That’s very beautiful; that’s really good. It doesn’t matter that I’ve heard it before, it’s always a good reminder.’”
Mike Patin, a speaker whose ministry takes him to 30 to 40 youth conferences a year, delivered the Friday evening keynote presentation. He stressed how God’s love is available to us, but that so often the pain and burdens that we carry can keep us from seeing God and from recognizing Him in our everyday lives.
“That’s our story,” Patin said of the passage in Luke’s Gospel. “It speaks to where a lot of teenagers are. They’re disappointed, they’re losing hope, they’re concerned about the future and they can’t make sense of it, so they ask ‘Where’s God?’ And yet He comes to join us.”
Father Ryan Dela Pena, parochial vicar at Jesus Our Risen Savior in Spartanburg, celebrated Mass to open the Saturday morning session.
“Our God did not virtually encounter us,” Father Dela Pena said in his homily. “God encountered us by becoming one of us in the incarnation. And that’s what we have to learn to do — not to virtually encounter people, but to be present to them in the here and now as God is present to us.”
The keynote speaker, Emily Wilson, a Catholic musician and author, related powerful stories ranging from an eye-opening experience at a similar conference as a 14-year-old to her walk with Jesus during a trying freshman year in college.
“One of the things that is an obstacle to us experiencing God’s love is that it is just plain hard to follow Jesus, especially as a young person in our world today,” Wilson said.
“The most beautiful part of our journey that we find in the road to Emmaus is that (the disciples) were accompanying one another on their road, on a journey; sharing about their life, sharing their burdens, worries and fears; sharing with one another,” she continued. “And we’re called to accompany one another on the road to life.”
Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone concluded the conference with Mass on Sunday.
Miscellany/Chip Lupo: Students perform a skit at the 28th annual High School Youth Conference held March 9-11 at White Oak Conference Center.