Nearly 3,000 expected at DCYC 2017 in Waco

By Lindsay Wilcox
Correspondent

DCYC “speaks a language everybody can understand,” said Jennifer Kodysz, associate director for Youth, Young Adult, and Campus Ministry for the Diocese of Austin. The 59th annual Diocesan Catholic Youth Conference (DCYC) will be held Jan. 27-29 at the Waco Convention Center. 
Approximately 2,800 attendees from more than 90 of the diocese’s 126 parishes are expected at the event, which is one of the nation’s largest and longest-running diocesan youth conferences. This year’s theme is “Sanctus,” referring to the universal call to holiness. Kodysz said the goal of this year’s conference is to inspire youth to understand how their individual pursuit of holiness connects with that universal call.
The weekend features four keynote speakers: Father Leo Patalinghug, of the ministry Grace Before Meals; Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers, a popular presenter from the Diocese of Portland, Oregon; Manny Barraza of Adore Ministries in Houston; and Jason Deuterman, director of Youth, Young Adult, and Campus Ministry for the Diocese of Dallas. Each speaker has a different style, just as youth have different learning styles and ways that the message of Jesus Christ reaches them. By inviting such a wide variety of presenters, DCYC ensures that there is something for everyone, Kodysz said.
One of the unique opportunities DCYC offers for youth who are further along in their faith journeys is the Discipleship CREW (formerly known as Youth Animators). CREW stands for Christ-centered Renewed Eucharistic Witness. The Discipleship CREW consists of high school teens who minister to their peers through hospitality, prayer, on-stage presence and servant leadership. They connect with attendees by showing that life as a disciple of Jesus Christ is not just for adults, Kodysz said. 
Discipleship CREW members participate in retreats before the conference to receive training in their roles as visible young disciples. Through their ministry of presence and service, they become examples of living a holy life. These CREW members are specifically trained in how to tell their faith story, share their first moment of connection with the church, and describe the ways they live their faith in day-to-day experiences. 
Kodysz said connecting youth to the larger body of Christ in the diocese is a priority for DCYC. There are several opportunities for encounter and transformation that connect DCYC to the “road map” of the diocesan Pastoral Plan. DCYC offers young people an opportunity to encounter Christ, to encounter new ways to grow in faith and to encounter many other Catholic youth from throughout the diocese. Teens from small parishes see that they’re not alone. 
“And they realize it’s not weird to show your love for Jesus and to share how having a relationship with Jesus has changed your life,” Kodysz said. 
Through careful liturgical planning, DCYC seeks to create “a beautiful experience, more like a church than a conference center,” she said. The event “seeks to inspire young people with practical ways to be disciples.”
For all supporters of youth ministry who will not be present at DCYC, the organizers ask for prayers. “Pray for the staff and volunteers participating in the planning process. Pray for the attendees to experience the presence of God, embrace community and grow in their faith. Pray for encounters that lead to transformation in hearts of young disciples,” said Alison Tate, the diocesan director of Youth, Young Adults and Campus Ministry.
Ultimately, DCYC is in the hands of the Holy Spirit, Kodysz said. The image for this year’s conference is an image of the Holy Spirit as a dove and as fire. The abstract logo represents the ways we each experience God differently and the unity of the body of Christ. 
“We see God and connect to him in varied ways, but God remains the same. He loves us and gives us what we need to answer the call to holiness. DCYC guides youth to grow in discipleship, live their faith in contemporary culture, persevere in prayer, and become witnesses to the message of Jesus Christ,” Kodysz said.
Registration for DCYC 2017 closes on Jan. 6, 2017. To register, contact your parish’s youth ministry representative. Fees and transportation vary by parish. Volunteers for the conference are also welcome. To register as a volunteer, contact Elizabeth Lagoe in the Office of Youth, Young Adult, and Campus Ministry at (512) 949-2464 or elizabeth-lagoe@austindiocese.org.