Steubenville Atlantic will be welcoming young pilgrims again this year with the aim of offering teens refuge in Christ and the Church. Photo courtesy Steubenville Atlantic

Steubenville Atlantic opens to new generation

  • June 3, 2023

This year’s Steubenville Atlantic Youth Conference is forecast to resonate with the daily struggles of teen life.

Catholic youngsters between the ages of 14 and 18 will delve into the theme of “refuge,” based on Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all you who labour and are burdened, and I will give you rest,” at the July 7-9 event to be held at Halifax’s Dalhousie University.

Bradley Van Dam, who is coordinating the conference for Eastern Canadian teens, hopes that young attendees will come to encounter Christ. 

“In the panorama of an ever-changing world, we want young people to know that Jesus isn’t just one option among many to answer the longing of our hearts for meaning, fulfilment, security, wholeness and ultimately love,” said Van Dam. “Rather, only Jesus will provide all that we need and desire. With, in and through Him, we have the promise of a faith that is unshakeable, the Church as our refuge and guide, and a God who never wearies of loving us.”

The 250-300 youth from the Archdiocese of Halifax-Yarmouth and elsewhere in Canada that are set to attend the three-day symposium will enjoy talks from Kris Frank, Michael Gormley, Ryan Mitchell, Andrew Laubacher and Sarah Sequeira. Joe Zambone, joined by local band members, will perform in the music ministry.

Apart from 2020 and 2021 because of the COVID-19  pandemic, Steubenville Atlantic has taken place every year since 2007. Van Dam, who has been involved in Catholic ministries since his university days at St. Francis Xavier in Nova Scotia, is happy to see the conference take off in a post-pandemic world.

“Many youth haven’t had an experience like a Steubenville conference because of the shutdowns which makes it exciting to see them in communion with one another experiencing an encounter with Christ,” he said. 

Although there are some nerves in facilitating a conference for teens, it’s displaced with eager anticipation.

“There is quite a bit of excitement in organizing the conference but as much excitement as there is it is equally matched by worry,” said Van Dam. “I think that if one didn’t worry about the conference that might be worrisome as well. Fortunately, we have an amazing team of staff and volunteers that make the job seamless.”

The Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio coordinates the annual conferences for youth which take place in different cities across North America. Its mission is to bring “high-schoolers into a life-changing encounter with Jesus Christ.”

Van Dam is optimistic about what this year’s Steubenville Atlantic has to offer young Catholics.

“Our hope is that the young people attending these conferences will leave knowing that they have a refuge in Jesus and His Church. This refuge is not an escape or a place, but an embrace of a relationship with the One who animates and gives purpose to our lives,” he said.

From 2014 to 2019, Steubenville Atlantic would be hosted within a week of Steubenville Toronto, which held the distinction of being the largest Canadian Catholic youth conference. 

However, the Toronto event has been dormant since 2020. The first three cancellations were caused by COVID-19 pandemic fallout. The Office of Catholic Youth did not publicize any plans to host a 2023 conference.

The Steubenville Toronto website states that the event is “hoping to return in 2024.”

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