The popular Steubenville youth conference is coming to Toronto in July 2014. Photo courtesy of Steubenville Conferences

Steubenville Toronto lineup to attract youth

  • November 6, 2013

TORONTO - Steubenville Toronto has announced the lineup and ministry team for the first youth conference of its kind to be held in Canada’s largest city.

Franciscan University professor Bob Rice will host the event, while American musician Ike Ndolo will lead worship. The all-star lineup also includes Jackie Francois Angel, Mike Gormley and Mary Bielski, who combined have spoken to tens of thousands of youth in Canada and the U.S.

The three-day conference, to be held July 4-6, 2014, promises to be the biggest Catholic youth event in Canada since World Youth Day 2002 in Toronto. High school students will descend on the Mattamy Centre, formerly Maple Leaf Gardens, to join the popular Catholic speakers and musicians in prayer, praise, worship and reflection.

“We’ve done a really good job at providing a great lineup of speakers for the first Toronto conference,” said Fr. Dave Pivonka, the team priest and Franciscan author and speaker from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. “I think you’ll find they are dynamic speakers. They’re also disciples. They are people that love God that want to be able to share that with other people. I think that you’ll find them very relatable.”

Pivonka has been involved in Franciscan youth conferences for almost two decades. The first Steubenville conference, namedafter the town in Ohio where it originated, was in 1976 with 1,000 youth in attendance. This year, a total of 40,000 students attended 18 Steubenville youth conferences.

“You kind of have a mixed population coming to a conference. Some people are very excited because they heard about the conferences. And others are kind of apprehensive because they’re not sure what they’re getting into. But what I think you see from the beginning on Friday night to Sunday is their hearts begin to change and they realize that there’s something more than what they were experiencing and God wants to be able to satisfy that. You want to see a change in the kids hearts throughout the weekend,” Pivonka said.

Keynote speaker Angel, who has been speaking at Steubenville conferences for five years, wants those in attendance to know that “only God can satisfy their hearts,” she said. Angel is a travelling speaker and singer-songwriter and will be addressing the entire congregation as well as a girls-only talk.

“We may look for anything and everything in this world to satisfy this longing and this hunger we have and this yearning for more, but only God can satisfy that. He’s the one that gives us true peace and true joy in this life,” she said.

Angel wants to show youth that delving deeper into their faith does not mean they will become boring people.

“When you get into your faith, you become more of who you are, you become more yourself,” Angel said.

Organized in partnership with the Office for Catholic Youth in the Archdiocese of Toronto, it’s the first time the conference will be in Toronto. But youth from Toronto have attended conferences stateside.

“We have a long relationship with Toronto. I’m really excited to be able to provide a youth conference there,” said Pivonka, referring to the American youth who attended World Youth Day Toronto and to the Torontonians who trek down to a U.S. conference. “What they have most to look forward to is an encounter with Jesus. At the youth conferences, we present the Gospel, we present the love of God. We present Jesus as our hope, everything we long for.”

On the Saturday night, Pivonka will lead adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

“I will lead that time of prayer, which I think for a lot of the young people is the most powerful time of the conference. Just being able to receive and experience Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament,” he said.

Registration for the Steubenville conferences open online in January with some of the more popular sites selling out in minutes. For more information on Steubenville Toronto, visit

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