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Online Edition
Vol. V, No. 9
December 1999 - January 2000

Teens Throng to St. Louis - Again

The National Catholic Youth Conference drew an estimated twenty-three thousand teens to the Cervantes Convention Center and TWA Dome in downtown St. Louis the weekend of November 18-21, echoing the Youth Rally during Pope John Paul II's visit to St. Louis in January 1999.

The gathering was sponsored by the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry Inc., hosted by the St. Louis Archdiocesan Office of Youth Ministry, and attended by twenty-one bishops. It opened with a Mass with Archbishop Justin Rigali as principal celebrant.

The three-day-long event featured Christian rock musicians such as Jesse Manibusan and Steve Angrisano, who performed at the Youth Rally during the papal visit.

Catholic speakers included Olympic athlete and basketball player Suzie McConnell Serio and 16-year-old Craig Kielburger, noted as founding an organization called Free the Children at age twelve. Jesuit Father J. Glenn Murray gave the keynote address.

Teens surged and milled throughout the convention area, the boys mostly in baggy multi-pocketed pants and clunky shoes, the girls in striped knit tops and jeans. In the center of the exhibit area, a large labyrinth made of tape decorated the floor, courtesy of the "St. Louis Labyrinth Project," whose nearby easels told the story of labyrinths, one of the latest fads in "spirituality".

Within the labyrinth, taped messages invited labyrinth-walkers to "Pray the Rosary", "Pray for Pro-life Legislation," or "Pray for an 'enemy'". Elsewhere, teens played "Leadership Twister", a variation on the familiar childhood game.

In exhibit booths, a variety of Christian and Catholic-themed businesses and groups distributed literature. A number of seminaries had booths, as did Regnum Christi. A Chicago priest explained that he wore civilian clothes while selling his line of polo shirts and baseball caps with Christian embroidered logos -- a Pentecostal flame, two praying hands, a cross, a dove -- because he didn' t want people to think that his business was Church-sponsored.

In a session devoted to "Environmental Justice", a female voice intoned in the inevitable rain forest video: "One acre of tropical rain forest is destroyed every second.... Like those who settled Europe and North America, people here are in search of a better life".

The teens were busy shaping objects out of white modeling clay; a lay volunteer, Jim Corder of Lansing, Michigan, explained that they were told to create an object of beauty, then hand it to the next person, who would destroy it to illustrate how we destroy God's creation.

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