CNS photo/Emily Fogarty, courtesy of Franciscan University

Youth to descend on Toronto for popular Steubenville conference

  • July 26, 2013

TORONTO - The Steubenville Youth Conference will be held in Toronto in 2014 and is expected to attract thousands of youth from across North America. 

The three-day conference brings teens together for praise, worship, sacraments and talks to build a stronger relationship with God.

The July 4-6, 2014 gathering of young Catholics will take place in Canada for the first time west of Nova Scotia, following this year's conference in Halifax at the beginning of August.

"It's an excellent experience for young people," said Fr. Frank Portelli, director of the Office for Catholic Youth in the archdiocese of Toronto, adding he hopes that it will attract teenagers from southern Ontario and the northeastern United States. 

"It's a conference or organized event by which young people become open to receiving God in their life," he said. "It's a very effective... and an exciting way for young people in high school to be… open to receive the Lord in their life and have a conversion experience." 

Strong youth ministries have usually heard about the conferences, said Portelli, citing St. Joseph the Worker parish that has taken 150 high school kids to past conferences. 

"We plan to bring in a strong brand that has strong speakers, strong music, ministry and to put on a large scale high school conference. That's why we're bringing Steubenville. They have the quality of speakers, they have the quality of music and they have evolved or matured as an organization to bring young people back to the sacramental practice." 

The OCY held a "rustic" summer experience for youth in past years at the Martyrs' Shrine in Midland, Ont., with youth sleeping in tents. But the OCY had to cap attendance at 500 in case weather forced them to move activities indoors. The shrine can "hold 500 people uncomfortably," Portelli said. This past summer, 18 Steubenville conferences have attracted 40,000 teens. 

The first conference gathered 1,000 young people in Ohio in 1976. Now, multiple conferences are held in different cities in the summer. 

In 2014, Cardinal Thomas Collins will celebrate the closing Mass. 

"The Steubenville Conference provides a tremendous opportunity to reach the youth of our archdiocese in a joyful and creative faith-filled setting," said Collins in a press release. "Our pastoral plan speaks to the importance of engaging our young people: this is one very tangible way to do so. My prayer is that they will join in this experience and, together, we can help strengthen those active in their faith and introduce others to Jesus Christ, our teacher and friend." 

The weekend will include inspiring talks, music, prayer and will be attended by internationally renowned speakers, musicians and clergy. 
Portelli and the OCY are currently looking for volunteers for the conference and will be putting together a volunteer team within the next few months.

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