“Read the Beatitudes. They will do you good!” This plea from Pope Francis to youth throughout the world in preparation for World Youth Day 2016 has inspired this year’s Alaska Catholic Youth Conference, which will be held at St. Benedict’s Church in Anchorage June 15-18. Alaska bishops and more than 250 youth from Anchorage, the Mat-Su Valley, Fairbanks, Juneau, Kenai Peninsula, Valdez, Galena and Glennallen are expected to participate in the annual event, which is themed “Blessed are the Pure in Heart, for They Shall See God!”
Youth will have opportunities to hear from nationally renowned speakers, Christian bands and religious order brothers and sisters. This year’s line-up includes the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecelia, the Community of St. John, Mike Sylvester and Claire Long of The 5Thousand ministry, and Eric Groth, who will be showing his recent production on the life of Mary. The folk-blues Full Armor Band will put on a free concert at East High School on June 15 at 7:30 p.m.
Attendees will participate in daily Mass, go to eucharistic adoration and confession, perform service projects in the community and raise money for Heifer International. On Tuesday evening, Anchorage Archbishop Roger Schwietz, Fairbanks Bishop Chad Zielinski and Juneau Bishop Edward Burns will join young people for an ice cream social, after which the youth will be able to grill the bishops with questions about the faith. This is a popular and well attended yearly event at ACYC.
Theresa Austin, one of the ACYC coordinators, encourages youth to participate in the four-day gathering.
“It is a wonderful way to connect with Christ and the Eucharist among your peers throughout the state,” she said. “There are vibrant liturgies, amazing speakers, great socials, food and service. They get to spend time with their friends, get exposed to different religious orders and explore vocational callings.”
Plus the youth have a unique opportunity to visit with the bishops of Alaska, St. Benedict Church Youth Minister Oriele Jones added. “It is a time to reinvigorate their faith.”
Young adults who have participated in the past recommend that youth make this event a part of their lives. Marisa Ramos attended five ACYCs. She said that it had a tremendous impact on her life.
“The total impact it had on my faith is pretty immeasurable,” she recalled. “But the greatest impact would have come from encountering Christ in the Eucharist in an ever new and more beautiful way every year.”
Deacon Arthur Roraff, who has assisted with several past ACYC events, has chosen to have his priestly ordination on June 19, in order to afford visiting youth the opportunity to be present at his ordination. He believes ACYC is a very important and dynamic event. Although he never had a chance to participate as a youth, ACYC has inspired his vocation, Deacon Roraff said.
“Six years ago I was asked to give a talk about the single vocation,” he recalled. “It was at that talk that I announced to them that I was going to the seminary. Their reaction was overwhelming. They were so excited. It was very encouraging and affirming.”
Since ACYC has helped inspire his vocation, he wanted to share the fruition of his vocational journey with the participants who may still be in town.
To register for ACYC, youth may visit showmyevents.com and click on the Alaska Catholic Youth Conference. They may also follow ACYC on Facebook, Instagram, and the Archdiocese of Anchorage’s website. Additional information can be obtained by emailing ACYConference@gmail.com.