Steubenville Atlantic will be welcoming young pilgrims again this year after a two-year, pandemic-induced hiatus. The last praise-and-worship event was held in 2019. (Photo courtesy of Steubenville Atlantic)

Steubenville Atlantic is back on track

By 
  • June 29, 2022

For the first time since 2019, the Archdiocese of Halifax-Yarmouth will stage a summer Steubenville conference for high school students. 

Cancelled in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, the revived praise and worship celebration is scheduled from July 8-10 at Dalhousie University’s Student Union Building in Halifax.

John Stevens, the archdiocese’s pastoral life and new evangelization manager, said the energy level of the planning team has been frenetic during the countdown to the event. 

“It has been exciting, but it has been bit of a scramble as we try to remember how to do things to get back together,” he said with a chuckle. “We have the youth coming, a great band from Toronto called Steadfast Worship and some great speakers — it’s going to be good.”

The first post-pandemic Steubenville Atlantic will be a smaller-scale production. Stevens expects the number of participants at the 2022 conference to be 250-300 people (including staff and volunteers), which is approximately one-third of the crowd that attended in pre-pandemic years. 

Expanding the scope of Steubenville Atlantic in 2023 and beyond will depend on how this year’s event fares and if large events throughout Nova Scotia remain free of gathering restrictions. 

For Stevens, one of the biggest hurdles the organizers contended with in the early logistical planning of the event was grappling with that very issue.

“Would be able to even have an event? What would restrictions be? In Nova Scotia, it was not really clear it would look like until March. Could we even do it again?” he said.

“And we also have to consider that people are just starting to return to Masses. We’re seeing across North America that congregations are at 50 per cent or 60 per cent of pre-COVID numbers. That slow build is beginning to happen and we had to find young people inside all that. It was a challenge.”

Stevens said he is “super excited” about the slate of conference speakers, many of whom have appeared at Steubenville Atlantic or other Catholic youth summits in the past.

He mentioned Sarah Swafford, an international speaker who teaches teens and young adults how to live a drama-free and fulfilling life through her organization Emotional Virtue Ministries. 

The event host, Bob Lesnefsky, assistant director of household life at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, was asked back as “he is a favourite of the group leaders and the people who remember him as he brings a lot of fun and joy.”

Chris Mueller, a California-based youth minister and founder of the media organization Everyday Catholic, is another “great guy who will give a fun, positive message to everyone.”

They will deliver presentations connected to the conference mission statement Fearless, rooted in John 16:33, which reads: “I have told you this so that you might have peace in me. In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.”

Originated out of Franciscan University, the Steubenville footprint has expanded to 22 conferences throughout North America. 

The Archdiocese of Toronto’s Office of Catholic Youth intended to restart Steubenville Toronto this summer, but there were not enough registrants to move forward. The archdiocese will attempt another Steubenville comeback in 2023.

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