10th Ave Youth Conference draws 800 Print this post

Staff Report (Florida Catholic)


Youth from across the Southeastern United States spent July 14-16 listening to dynamic talks, hearing moving music, praying, participating in Eucharistic Adoration, going to Confession, attending the Mass, and had the opportunity to make some incredible friends.

The goal of “Proclaim,” the 10th annual Ave Maria University Youth Conference in Ave Maria, was to allow high school-aged youth to come to know God in a more personal way as well as to learn how to touch the lives of others through their own life.

The youth raved about the weekend, one young man from Naples said “this was so awesome. Jesus was everywhere.”

The weekend was not just simply listening to inspirational speakers and musicians who encouraged the young people to become more involved in their faith and to be guided by the Word of Christ; it was an interactive experience meant to awaken the spirit and for most of, if not all, the conference goers, it did.

The Conference was capped with Mass celebrated by Bishop Frank J. Dewane at Ave Maria Parish on July 16, directly across from the University, on what is traditionally the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and also happened to be the 29th anniversary of Bishop’s ordination to the priesthood.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane speaks during teh closing Mass of the Proclaim Ave Maria University Youth Conference in Ave Maria on July 16.

The Conference gave the youth the great task – proclaiming the Word of God, Bishop Dewane said. “Proclaim the Word of God to others by what you say; by what you do; and by what you don’t do… This can be the strongest proclamation, because when you are not doing something because everyone else is doing it, you are doing what Christ called you to do.”

As they mature and grow closer to the Lord, the Bishop added that the youth are not developing a hardened heart, but a softened heart. “One that listens and welcomes the word of the Lord into their lives. The Lord has called, and you listened. But you have also responded… Go forward and be proclaimers of the Gospel and take on the challenge set before you. Be doers of your Faith. Don’t just leave it for somebody else to do. It is you who is called. It is you who can proclaim the Word of God to the world.”

One young lady from Fort Myers summed up the weekend this way: “My spirit is filled with Christ’s love. I am now ready to do more, to show my friends and family how much the love, joy and comfort the Church provides.”

The weekend included several inspirational talks and a vocations presentation which was given by several Diocese of Venice Seminarians and Diocesan Vocations Director Father Eric Scanlan, as well as several religious sisters.

Among the speakers were: inspirational speaker Michael “Gomer” Gormler; Father Christopher Argano, Vocations Director for the Archdiocese of New York; Mary Bielski, who speaks across the country, sharing her heart and her love for God; Bob Lesnefsky, a full time Christian Hip Hop artist and speaker; and the music was by Martin Doman and Epic Ministries.

Many young men and women from throughout the Diocese of Venice participated in the Conference, including from St. Raphael Parish in Lehigh Acres, St. Katherine Drexel Parish in Cape Coral, St. Agnes and St. William parishes in Naples, St. Michael Parish in Wauchula, Epiphany Cathedral in Venice, and others.

The Diocesan participants made a special effort to greet Bishop Dewane and congratulate him on the 29th Anniversary of his Priestly Ordination, which fell on the day of the closing Mass. A large group photo with the Bishop was taken on the steps of the Parish Church, and he posed for individual and group photos afterwards, as well as for a few selfies.

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