WINNSBORO—Joseph Long has experienced the power of the Diocesan High School Youth Conference from both sides of the stage.
For two years, Long was an active participant in the annual rally at White Oak Conference Center. Now, the 2019 event marks his second year as a member of the Diocesan Youth Evangelization Team, or “E-Team.”
“I remember being here my freshman year and it was a complete life changer,” said Long, a senior at Lexington High School and a parishioner at Corpus Christi. “I was completely lost and had no idea what was going on. Then, I was just blown away by the production, and the fact that there’s 30 kids on stage preaching about Jesus and bringing the Good News to us.
“Now, when I’m up on stage, I want to be able to influence people just like me when I was that age,” he added.
“Power!” was the theme for this year’s conference held March 8-10, an annual gathering of high school students and adults representing more than 30 parishes statewide. Attendees were treated to music, workshops, guest speakers and team sports. The E-Team kept the crowd entertained throughout the event with a variety of games and skits.
The students, as a group, and during separate sessions for boys and girls, delved deeper into the concept of power as stated in 2 Corinthians 2:19, “for power is made perfect in weakness.”
Father Andrew Fryml, parochial vicar at the Basilica of St. Peter in Columbia, celebrated Mass to open the Saturday morning session. After, Father Joe Espaillat of the Archdiocese of New York, dove into the keynote address with a high-energy, spirited talk on the power of faith.
“Faith is not simply believing,” Father Espaillat said. “It’s a response. How do we respond to God? How do we respond to God’s love? How do we respond to God’s mercy? How do we respond to the grace that God gives us? Believing in God is not enough. Faith is three things: Believing, accepting, and responding.”
Lorena Robles, a musician, YouTuber and frequent speaker at youth events, led the girls’ session on Saturday afternoon. An occupational therapist from Pawleys Island, Robles’ discussion on the power of women inspired the audience.
“The world doesn’t need what women have, it needs what woman are,” Robles said. “As women, it is our high calling to offer ourselves to the world in a way that is rooted in reality, and yet true to what we are. We have a responsibility to raise the level of the culture that we are living in to something higher.”
During the boys’ session, Doug Tooke, director of ministry with ODB films, challenged the young men to believe in the power of God’s trust.
“Do you really think, in your mind, right now, that you have the ability to just map out everything that’s going to be perfect for you?” Tooke asked. “This is where we, as men specifically, have failed with trust. I’m talking about you trusting that it’s not all about you.
“The King has come, He has spoken,” Tooke added. “Seriously, you think you can do a better job with that? You are out of your minds if you think that’s true.”
On Sunday, Father Espaillat celebrated Mass to close the conference.
By Chip Lupo/Special to The Miscellany
Photo, Miscellany/Chip Lupo: Doug Tooke, director of ministry with ODB films, speaks at the youth conference.