More than 1,600 youth sang and praised God at the Steubenville Toronto conference held at Roy Thomson Hall Aug. 7-9. In this photo, musician Cooper Ray, centre, invited youth on stage to demonstrate dance moves for the crowd to accompany his song. Photo by Jean Ko Din

Steubenville rocks Toronto

By 
  • August 12, 2015

TORONTO - Limitless is the word to describe the future of the Catholic Church after downtown Toronto was witness to more than 1,600 youth in prayer and celebration at the second annual Steubenville Toronto conference.

During the weekend of Aug. 7-9, Roy Thomson Hall was bustling with young people not just from the Greater Toronto Area, but from across Ontario and even the United States for Steubenville Toronto. The conference is a Catholic youth festival that brings together some of the best Catholic speakers and musicians in North America to provide youth a weekend to grow in their faith.

This year’s ministry team kept spirits high throughout the weekend. Worship leader Josh Blakesley and his band set the mood from energetic rock concert to gentle, heartfelt worship. Canadian musicians Joe Zambon and Chris Bray also performed.

Host and speaker Chris Stefanick led the team of speakers alongside Sr. Miriam Heidland, Matt Fradd and Cooper Ray. The ministry team’s combination of playful fun and passionate teaching made their talks and workshops memorable.

Fr. Christopher Martin was also among the speakers, but more importantly, he was the team priest who oversaw the serving of the sacraments throughout the weekend. More than 30 priests were present every day to give the Sacrament of Reconciliation during free time, to celebrate Mass and to serve during the Holy Hour of Adoration. Their presence inspired dozens of youth to start discerning about religious life and the priesthood.

But it wasn’t just the youth who were impacted by the joy of the conference weekend. Fr. Frank Portelli, director of the Archdiocese of Toronto’s Office of Catholic Youth (OCY), said he has been getting e-mails about how much they enjoyed the conference.

“I think it went great. We’re just getting some e-mails now from the people at Roy Thomson Hall, the caterers, they said they had a great time and that people were very nice to them,” said Portelli.

Portelli said it’s great to see the conference is not only impacting the youth, but those who witnessed the youth that weekend.
During Holy Adoration, Portelli was watching the monitor outside the auditorium with some of the staff at Roy Thomson Hall. They watched as Martin carried the monstrance to different sections of the auditorium. Portelli asked a staff member, “Is this the craziest thing you guys have ever seen?” He was thinking about the number of great orchestras and symphonies that have performed in that same auditorium, but the staff members told him it has been a pleasure.

“They said, ‘We weren’t sure about this weekend, but this has been the nicest and easiest weekend we’ve had in a really long time,’ ” said Portelli. “To me, that’s a great compliment not just to me but to all the people that were the chaperones, the teens, the volunteers.”

Andrew Santos, social media team lead for Steubenville Toronto, said Roy Thomson Hall was a great place for the conference, for music and for evangelization.

“The space was good because we were centrally located downtown. We were visible,” said Santos. “That in itself is a witness to those people around us.”

Santos, the youth co-ordinator for St. Justin Martyr parish in Unionville, Ont., chaperoned 17 teenagers from the parish’s LifeTeen program. He said the conference did a good job of starting conversations within their parish.

“Steubenville didn’t end (Sunday) afternoon,” said Santos. “The fruits of Steubenville are ultimately lived out in our ministries and in our programs and in our conversations moving forward.”

OCY is already gearing up for its follow-up project. In September, the youth office is launching a Youth Ministry Training Day where about 200 youth ministers and parish CORE team leaders will be invited to St. Bonaventure’s parish for a workshop.

“This (program) is more like, let’s take this awesome experience and let’s do something at the local level,” said Portelli. He added that OCY will be spending the months between Steubenville conferences providing programs to help local parishes grow in youth ministry.

Steubenville Toronto 2016 will take place at Durham College’s University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) campus in Oshawa, Ont.

 

 

YSN at SteubieTO Daily Wrap-up

 

Youth Speak News reporters will write about their first-hand experiences after each day of the Steubenville Toronto conference. Read their reflections and other Steubenville stories below.

- The future of our Church is at Steubenville, by Chanelle Robinson, Youth Speak News
- Think big, pray big, by Jean Ko Din, Youth Speak News
- Praising God unashamedly, by Bianca Reategui, Youth Speak News

Steubenville Toronto photo gallery wrap-ups:

- Day 1 Photos
- Day 2 Photos
- Day 3 Photos

 

 

 

Steubenville 2015 stories:

 

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