byChristopher S. Pineo
BRAINTREE -- Steubenville East Youth Conference will be coming to the Archdiocese of Boston this summer.
The Archdiocese of Boston's Office for Lifelong Faith Formation and Parish Support's Faith Formation of Youth and Young Adult Ministry recently concluded informational meetings for parish leaders about the conference, which will be held at the Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell, July 17-19, presented by Life Teen. In recent years, the conference had been held at the University of Rhode Island.
The Franciscan University of Steubenville offers 21 conferences each year, and this year four of those will be presented by Life Teen -- a ministry that originated in Arizona in the 1980s before moving on to reach young people at a parish level nationally and internationally. Life Teen will host Steubenville East, Steubenville West, Steubenville NYC, and Steubenville Atlanta this year.
The youth and young adult office of the Archdiocese of Boston has been preparing for Steubenville East by promoting it at parishes, and director of the office Father Matt Williams sent a letter to pastors in February.
The letter encouraged pastors to pray for the estimated 3,000 youth and young people to attend, send youth ministers or parish representatives to the informational meetings Feb. 23 and Feb. 26, and to reserve time during the conference to provide the Sacrament of Reconciliation for those who attend.
"I have personally attended over ten of these conferences throughout the years. The leaders of this conference are experts in youth evangelization and catechesis. They do a phenomenal job of creating an environment that enables teens and leaders to encounter Christ in a profound way, most especially in the celebration of the Sacraments," Father Williams said, in the letter.
The archdiocesan youth and young adult office said the conference provides professional lighting, music, and sound at the Masses during the gathering, as well as organizing speakers, and providing all accommodations including food.
Kathy Stebbins, the archdiocesan coordinator of youth ministry, said the event is "self-contained" for parishes and youth ministers interested in attending, providing an opportunity to interact with the young people they lead without having the distraction of coordinating logistics like lodging and food.
"Youth ministers can bring their group of kids, and they don't have to do anything except be with those kids. They don't have to worry about who's bringing the pizza, or what we're having for lunch, or -- it's all taken care of," she said.
Michael Drahos, a coordinator of faith formation for youth and young adults for the archdiocese, said the event helps build intentional discipleship for Christ.
He said the event builds in accompaniment by youth ministers for the young people, who attend, with no option for individual registration.
"You are there, if you're a leader in youth ministry in some capacity or another, you're there accompanying your teens. You're walking with them like Jesus with the disciples at Emmaus," he said.
He said national speakers also proclaim the Gospel -- this year to include national speaker Matt Fradd and author Katie Hartfiel -- in a deeply effective way.
"After that, they have all this small-group discussion time to really process that. The idea is that you go back into your parish and continue to do that with newly converted disciples," he said.
He said the conference can also provide a powerful kind of booster shot for those who are already intentional disciples.
"It's a great event for that. You've got the sacraments that focus on Jesus in the Eucharist, and Reconciliation in particular. A lot of vocations are born from this. They do a big vocations call, so that's a very powerful thing," Drahos said.