If you haven’t seen your friends for a long time…
From June 14 through June 16, a Catholic youth conference was held at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, which is located about three hours away from Cleveland. This youth conference is one of the most famous youth gatherings in the country, with hundreds of Catholic high school students from various parts of the nation attending. I went to this conference and I feel fortunate to have been able to be part of the magnificent experience.
My church, St. Andrew Kim, applied to attend this event. Many of my friends decided to participate, and this conference was a perfect opportunity for us to see one another since many of us do not get together as often as we’d like. Most of us signed up for this reason, rather than for the programs offered – although they turned out to be surprisingly inspirational.
About 15 of us piled into the three cars and after an exhausting three-hour ride that made me car sick, we arrived on the university grounds with great anticipation. The Franciscan University of Steubenville is built inside a mountainous forest and fresh air filled the area.
We grabbed a quick dinner and entered the field house of the university, where most of the activities were taking place. The field house was set up in a way appropriate for a music concert: a stage with drum sets and guitars, facing thousands of chairs and bleachers. On top of the stage was a band singing Catholic songs and on top of the chairs were thousands of students that were screaming at the top of their lungs from excitement.
I later found out that there were a total of 2,500 people at the youth conference. As I walked through the aisles to find empty seats for our group, I kept wondering how all these people could be so excited over Catholic songs that the band was performing. However, it was these songs that helped to make the weekend so memorable.
Over the course of the weekend, the speaking team, which consisted of four people, delivered their thoughts on life and Christianity. Some of the speeches made a deep impression on me. One speech was delivered by a Sister. She played a TV advertisement from the 2012 Olympics. The commercial showed African children playing rugby in the rural fields and many other examples of people training and participating in a sport. The commercial was by Nike, and the theme was "Find Your Greatness." The purpose of showing the kids in Africa was to illustrate that anyone can be great at something and it is important to find that greatness.
When the video was over, the Sister grabbed a microphone and said that to God, everyone is equal and that God has given equal chances to everyone. Even though I already knew this, it reminded me that if I kept trying hard, great rewards would come later.
Later, the Bishop of the university delivered a speech, saying that everything that happens, whether it is good or bad, is for a reason since God has put us on earth for a purpose and all the events that happen will lead up to that purpose. I felt inspired that nothing bad can actually happen since God meant everything to serve that purpose.
After the weekend was over, my friends and I went home. We were all exhausted from the early wake-up calls and late curfew, so we all fell asleep in the cars as soon as we left.
This three-day experience changed me as a person. Although this was a Catholic religious camp, I recommend students my age to take interest in this kind of conference since it was not strictly religious, and numerous life lessons were taught, and inspirational speeches were delivered. Best of all, you’ll get to see your friends.
Taeho Kim is entering his sophomore year at Westlake High School.