Steubenville Live is still a go online, despite COVID outbreak in Florida.

Steubenville planning to go virtual

By 
  • June 29, 2020

Canadian Catholic youth and young adults saddened by Steubenville Toronto and Steubenville Atlantic being cancelled due to COVID-19 will have a faith conference to be excited about this month after all, should everything go according to plan.  

Franciscan University of Steubenville and Catholic Servant Ministries are partnering to present Steubenville Live, a streaming presentation of the on-site Steubenville Florida High School Youth Conference. Approximately 300 spectators are on tap to attend the gathering in Orlando from July 17-19. It will take the place of the series of 25 conferences around North America, including Toronto and Halifax, that bring youth together to encounter the love of Christ.

Organizers, however, will need to contend with the pandemic to execute this large-scale event successfully. Florida has emerged as a global coronavirus epicentre since health restrictions in place to combat COVID-19 were relaxed with more than 114,010 cases and daily case numbers exceeding 5,000 a day twice within a week in late June.

Danielle Twist, the executive director of Catholic Servant Ministries, said her team is closely observing the evolving situation. Friday saw 8,942 new cases, 9,585 on Saturday, 8,530 on Sunday, and 5,266 Monday.

“It is certainly something we are continuing to monitor. We are putting our faith and trust in our government leaders to lead us in the right direction for the safety of all. We’re going to follow all the directives from our state leaders and the CDC (Centres for Disease Control and Prevention) as well.”

If the event indeed goes ahead as planned, Twist, a native of Estevan, Sask., says it will be special to offer young Catholics the in-person fellowship, praise and worship experience they have been craving. She’s also enthusiastic about Canadians experiencing Steubenville Florida online.

“This is extremely special for me, a Canadian girl at heart, to bring this experience in Florida to my home country,” she said.

The extent of Catholic Servant Ministries’ involvement in the Steubenville Live component is mainly providing a stable high-speed Internet connection for streaming. The team from Franciscan University is primarily engineering the virtual conference. The plan is to make it as interactive an experience as possible. 

“We want to provide opportunities for chats, Q&A’s, polls to keep them engaged with the content,” said Sarah Bacza, the manager of youth programming for the university. “We also hope to share backstage features and air special interviews. We’re also encouraging (youth) group leaders to take advantage of break time by leading small groups, game opportunities or journaling.”

Bacza said her team reimagined the content for the conference to ensure participants are receiving wisdom and insights that speak to this moment in time. The new theme of Steubenville Florida is Hope Alive.

Elizabeth Craig, the project coordinator for the Archdiocese of Halifax-Yarmouth’s youth and young adult ministry office, hopes youth can experience this event in a virtual group setting. She says 20-25 of the youth leaders who have brought a cohort to Steubenville Atlantic in previous years are spreading the word about the virtual event. 

Craig is thrilled about the communion aspect of Steubenville Live. 

“I think it’s never going to be exactly the same as our in-person conference, obviously, but to know we can find new ways to pivot and reposition so that we can all meet excites me. We will have far more people gathered virtually that weekend than we normally have at one conference. Over 40,000 to 50,000 youth could all be there together, not physically, but all united in prayer and worship.”

Craig adds that Steubenville Live provides youth who have never been to an in-person conference before with a prime opportunity to dip their toe into the water. 

Those who do attend the conference will need to follow protocols to stay safe, including:

  • All attendees and staff will need to wear a mask covering the nose and mouth at all times except during meals. Ministry leaders can remove their mask at their discretion when speaking on stage.
  • All parties will have their body temperature measured by touch-free thermometers when they enter sessions and dining areas. 
  • Signs, tape, ropes and stanchions will be set up everywhere to ensure social distancing.
  • All participants will need to sign — or have their parents sign — a COVID-19 Liability and Release before showing up at the resort.

See steubenvilleconferences.com/live for more information.

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