I walked into the second Annual Emerging Conference bleary-eyed, tired, and unsure of what to expect. The conference, which took place July 6-8, is hosted by the diocesan Young Adult Office and is coordinated by the young adults in St. Bartholomew’s Gethsemane group. It’s aimed at young adults 18-25 years old and exploring issues relevant to them through the lens of faith. Well, I walked out of there with new friends, and feeling pretty blessed. Here’s why.
7. Music to My Ears
Wasn’t worship music supposed to be stuffy and boring? At least that’s the stereotype. Well, apparently Vince Lujan and his band, Jesus Team A, didn’t get the memo. They played everything from covers of the Dave Matthews Band to Matt Maher’s “Hold Us Together” to Israel Houghton’s “Friend of God,” and some of their own original songs. My iPod will have to make room for some new artists.
6. Not Speaking in Unknown Tongues
Ever had any question whatsoever about relationships? Ever feel like people walk all over you? Ever wanted help navigating grief and loss? The workshop speakers, ranging from young adult minister, to professor, to counselors, to mental health nurse practitioner, addressed issues and questions like those during the three rounds of workshops, and they did it in a friendly, down-to-earth-not-overly-theological way. It’s nice when they speak your language.
5. Pick Up Lines
Just kidding, didn’t hear any of those. But we did get something better: good relationship advice about what to look for in a potential spouse, about dating, about entering into marriage, about commitment, about listening, about interfaith relationships, about working through arguments, and about how sometimes you have to humble yourself and change some of your own habits. The two workshops touching on this were full beyond capacity, by the way. No coincidence I think, given that real and relevant advice from a presenter with the title of HMMO18Y, a happily married man of 18 years, is better than cheesy lines that go like this: “There must be something wrong with my eyes, I can’t take them off you.”
4. No Losing Focus
I love listening to stories. With my short attention span, I think stories help me understand and remember things better. I think our main presenter, Roy Petitfils, a Catholic speaker, writer, and professional counselor from Louisiana, likes them too. The guy gave three keynotes on building better relationships and he shared some crazy stories. Some were touching. Some were sad. Some were interesting. A lot were funny. Bottom line: the man knows how to reach us young adults and connect us with our faith. After all, when a guy is describing how he went through a Garth Brooks-in-anaphylactic-shock stage as a young adult while connecting that to a faith lesson — you’ll remember it.
3. Not the Only One
If you attend a small, rural parish, like I do, you might see 18 to 25-year-old Catholics about as often as it snows in Texas. Imagine my surprise seeing 75 other young Catholics coming from all over the diocese — even from the Diocese of Dallas — for the conference. The first day, I quickly became friends with three other Catholic guys close to my age. We spent most of the conference hanging out with each other, going to workshops, and meeting several other young adults. How great was it to joke around together? How great was it to talk and learn about our faith together? How great was it to have peach cobbler with vanilla ice cream together? Pretty great.
2. Message for __________ (your name here)
Titled, “Ignite Our Hearts for One Another,” the conference was about exploring all these relationships in our lives (family, friends, significant others, co-workers). In line with that, Roy Petitfils hit us with some major truths during his keynotes. He said what we most desire in relationships is to know and be known by another; that we hunger for divine intimacy, and we get a taste of that here on Earth through the relationships we have with the people in our lives. How do we do obtain relationships like that? By loving people as they are, by listening to them, by being other-focused not self-focused, and then by sharing our faith from the heart. And if we can’t share from the heart or love someone as they are, we need to pray more. As Roy said this, all eyes were on him. Other than the sound of his voice, the room was completely quiet. Talk about a message resonating with an audience.
1. Get Plugged In
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I’ve been told that God is always moving in our lives in some way or another — that He whispers, softly invites, gently reminds, quietly stirs our conscience. I don’t doubt it. After all, don’t you sometimes feel that calming reassurance come over you? Don’t you sometimes feel your heart on fire? Don’t you sometimes feel those quiet affirmations that push you to do something? Maybe those are different sorts of input delivered to us in varying degrees and strengths. I’m not saying I’m right, but I felt a little more receptive to that input when I put my other priorities on the back burner and got some downtime that looked like this: Joining in morning prayer and praise, listening and reflecting on various positive messages, spending quiet time in adoration, and enjoying the company of 75 men and women working toward the same goals. I’m not saying that I found the answers to all my problems, but I did get a little input on where to begin. I’m not saying the input only flows from time to time, or only in a certain setting, just that it helps to get plugged in and listen.