This year’s event, titled “Walking on Water,” is a powerful and life-changing faith experience that offers young people an opportunity to encounter Christ. This Catholic three-day conference included many opportunities for spiritual growth, prayer, learning and service. The participants engaged with an extensive program of workshops and prayer experiences. This event is produced and presented by the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry (nfcym.org). People have traveled from all over to be a part of this life-changing event.

It takes a lot of dedication to be a part of NCYC. You must be committed to the parish and participate in fundraising activities to be able to go to NCYC. St. Christopher Catholic Church has been to many of these events alongside Youth Ministry Coordinator Eva Delgado.

Eva has been taking youth to NCYC since 2005. The theme “Walking on Water’’ is based on Matthew 14:22-23, when Jesus tells Peter to not take his eyes off him while they walk on water together. Jesus calls us to get in the boat with Peter. This year’s youth participants who joined in this event were Emilio Estrada, Veronica Estrada, Julius Orejel, Mariana Orejel, James Garcia, Elis Suarez, Hannah Almeida and Kassandra Valencia.

We were introduced to our general speakers, Father Augustino Torres and Chika Anyanwu, on the first day. Chika began by encouraging the youth to say no to Satan and yes to Jesus, setting us free from the power of Satan. This day was centered all on navigating through the world and its obstacles with Jesus’ help. Throughout the conference, they reassure the youth that even if they are feeling doubtful or unsure in their faith, that it is okay, inviting them to still open up to Jesus. They encourage the teens to take posture for the Lord and to listen to him.

The N in NCYC stands for “navigating.” Just like Jesus had called his disciples to get in the boat and set sail, he calls us to embark on our journey. When Jesus had asked this of his disciple, storms were already developing in their course. In our lives, Jesus calls us to navigate through our own personal storms with him journeying with us and leading the way.

For me (Hannah), I think the nonjudgmental encouragement all the incredible speakers give to us teens is the best way to keep our faith alive. Nothing forced, just allowing us to take our time opening up to the Lord. It’s sincere and helps us get closer to God.

For me (Mariana), I would like to fully agree with Hannah. I think nowadays, teens don’t like to be forced to do anything so, with this three-day conference, it gave us time to open up like Hannah said. It was a surreal experience to say the least and, if you really try to connect with God, it will happen.

The exhibit hall, the Thematic Village, had a bunch of little stands with various activities, items for sale, free trinkets, and delightful people to talk with. We spent our time there making crafts, participating in social justice activities, playing interactive games, purchasing cool religious t-shirts and hoodies, trading with the other youth from all over the nation, winning free stuff, and all the while learning about our faith and getting closer to the Lord. It’s a fun and creative way to share your love with God with others as well. You are surrounded by people, who share the same faith as you, which is very comforting.

The second day, Chika and Father Augustino were telling us all about “clouds” that pass through our lives. The first C in NCYC stands for “clouds,” these clouds being a metaphor for hard times we go through that may “cloud” our view of God. They talked about different types of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual clouds that may cause us to lose sight of Jesus, just like Peter in Matthew 14:22-23. They tell us that if we keep our gaze locked on the Lord, we can overcome anything.

The Y stands for “yes.” Jesus is the lighthouse amidst the storm, guiding us in the right direction. Just like how Peter is called out onto the water, we also are called to say, “Yes!” to Jesus even when we think things are impossible. Jesus makes the impossible possible even if it is doing something crazy like walking on water. He makes our paths straight and guides us through the rockiness of the water.

On the third day, Jessica Cox spoke to us about having hope. Her story was truly inspirational. Jessica Cox is a scuba diver and she can fly a plane, all without arms. She was born without arms and had to learn to live life like any other person. She wore her prosthetic arms up until eighth grade when she decided that God created her that way for a reason. She decided to let go of what was holding her back. She knew she was going to have to face the stares and the comments. At times, it was hard and she even questioned why God had made her that way. She was at the gas station one day putting gas in her car, and a man came up to her with tears in his eyes. He told her that his daughter had recently lost her fingers and seeing her put gas in her car using just her feet made all the difference. That was when she realized to God, she was enough. Everybody has a purpose in life. You must always have hope.

The second C in NCYC stands for “calmness.” When we decide to trust and follow Jesus, he makes our storms calm. Jesus not only can walk on the water, but he can control the waters too. Even in our darkest times, we know there is light at the end of the tunnel, or a sun that shines after a storm.

We received the Eucharist on Saturday evening. God was truly present. Feeling like God is always with you is such a blessed feeling. We don’t realize how truly blessed we are to be a part of the Catholic faith. Just because you can’t see God doesn’t mean he is not there. God is always protecting and all you need to do is call out to him and he will listen. Each night we had reflections about our day and hearing everyone talk about feeling closer with God and with each other in their own words was a great feeling. Being surrounded by people your own age, called together to this conference by the Lord, is a different kind of experience. You don’t feel alone and you feel that you can be more open about your faith. The bond between the youth that was developed on this trip is something that cannot be broken or forgotten.

Ultimately, NCYC 2022 was an unforgettable and life changing experience. It allowed us to open up our hearts to Jesus and to feel the presence of God. We would like to thank everyone who helped us to go on this trip: the Rev. Miguel Silva, our parish, the donations, our families, and chaperones Marisela Suarez and Gabriel Estrada. We would also like to thank our Youth Ministry Coordinator Eva Delgado for making this possible. She has done everything and beyond to help out the youth and we can’t thank her enough. This blessed trip is something we youth will never forget and we hope this inspires the future of the Catholic Church. St. Christopher youth are looking forward to participating in NCYC 2023 Fully Alive, held in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Overall highlights from all the NCYC participants:

Eva Delgado: “Walking on Water with Jesus we learn, as trusting in God, He makes the impossible possible and responding to His call. He is everywhere and makes all things happen by leading us along the way. The young Church is thriving and alive at NCYC! The power of prayer, love and hope is amazing!

“God touches our hearts and never leaves us alone. NCYC is the best Catholic experience for the young people of Faith. It is an honor and I am so very proud to lead our wonderful youth from St. Christopher Church. We will continue our faith journey in Indianapolis, Indiana for 2023 NCYC.”

Chaperone Marisela Suarez: “It’s not how you start, it’s how you persevere. From Jessica Cox, ‘To him, you are enough.’”

Chaperone Gabriel Estrada: “Like the disciples in the Gospel we are caught off guard by an unexpected, turbulent storm. We have realized that we are in the same boat, all of us fragile and disoriented, but at the same time important and needed, all of us to row together, each of us in need of comforting the other.

“NCYC was inspirational! All young Catholics would be better prepared for a great life if they had this experience ... what a joy to see the St. Christopher Youth Group experience this life changing event ... Special thanks to Eva for all her tireless work to make this happen....”

Emilio Estrada: “I learned that you can’t choose your family but you can choose your friends. I also learned that the people who you waste time with are your best friends; and I’m glad to have friends who I can do that with.”

Veronica Estrada: “Faith is one of the most important things to keep. When I got in the boat, I was left to wonder what would be on the other side.”

Julius Orejel: “You are who you hang with. I learned that the consequence of telling the truth is the best consequence.”

Mariana Orejel: “Through perseverance and with God’s help, we can accomplish all great things. You are not defined by your circumstances, you’re defined by the Father’s love for you.”

James Garcia: “Trying new things can lead to great opportunities. Good friends are the ones who have the same faith as you.”

Hannah Almeida: “I learned that if I keep myself focused on Jesus and my faith, I can get through anything. Anything is possible with Jesus.”

Elis Suarez: “I learned that if you want to be faithful to Christ, you want to find people who will have the same faithfulness as you. I learned to keep close to Christ always, in good and bad times, and in the in-between.”

Kasandra Valencia: “Jesus did not die on the cross for us to be defined by our circumstances.” Prayer doesn’t only help with your relationship with God but it is your relationship with God.”