July 31, 2013

Stuebenville East 2013

Each summer Franciscan University of Steubenville (my wife's alma mater) sponsors a series of youth conferences throughout the country.  The one closest to us is held each July at the University of Rhode Island and is called Steubenville East.  This weekend conference is attended by thousands of high school students and, by all accounts, is a life changing weekend of prayer, talks, community, Mass, etc. Mrs. Doherty P'14 and '16 approached me last year and asked if Trinity could send a group and I readily agreed.  I was not able to attend as it began the same day we got back from Lasallian Youth Assembly so Ms. Zolkos of our theology department headed it up along with Mrs. Doherty.  Four Trinity students attended:

Allison Doherty '14
Morgan Doherty '16
Jason Dufour '16
Theresa Murphy '16

Jason wrote a wonderful reflection on the weekend which I am proud to share:

My Steubenville Experience
There are so many things that I want to mention about my weekend at Steubenville East.
I should probably mention that I really did not think fondly of going to this conference at first. Of course, that opinion changed quicker than I probably would have thought. There were so many incredible things that I experienced this past weekend. Whether it was the music, everyone singing along, or the absolutely incredible talks, all of it was powerful. Also on that list would include the Masses, adoration, and reconciliation offered during that influential weekend. I could go on and on about it, but I will try to be brief.
During this past school year, my Theology teacher Ms. Zolkos showed my class multiple videos that starred a famous Catholic speaker by the name of Mark Hart. Now, at the time during the classes, I will be honest, I did not realize and appreciate how much of a great, compelling and passionate speaker he was. Then I came along to this weekend conference trip and I totally saw how he was all of those qualities and more. He made many excellent points during the multiple lectures he gave and most of all, taught me and I am sure many others around me various, but extremely valuable lessons all revolving and tracing back to our faith as Catholics. Something that was very cool was that I actually ended up meeting him. It was pretty amazing after seeing those videos and seeing him from far away on stage to actually see him up close and take a picture with him.
Do not forget there was also the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Now at first, I really did not want to take part in this either. Of course, on opening night, the host Steve Angrisano started to push the importance of the sacrament. Then between the speakers and special guests saying how great it was and how much grace you got from it made me gradually change my mind. Finally, I gave in between the nagging in my head and just I guess wanting that grace and that beautiful feeling inside of me, I went. So it was during the lunch period on Saturday, and I have to say for myself that is was an incredible experience. You should probably know that I have been to confession quite a few times before, but this was different. I wanted to make sure I got out everything, and the priest actually talked to me too. He gave me advice, informed me on things, and it was just awesome. To think that he was standing in the place of Jesus, and that he resolved me of my sins, it just could not prevent me from smiling after. The experience probably does not sound as good on paper, so you just have to go yourself to experience God's unfailing, incredibly moving, powerful grace that you receive from the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Something that is also of honorable mention would be the atmosphere of this whole weekend. Everyone was always either clapping appreciatively, listening intently, or (hopefully) praying deeply. God was clearly there, present with us, if you were open to him. When everyone was singing, the power that exploded from everyone together was awesome! It was so powerful and I loved it. On the way to my seat for the exclusively men's talk with Mark Hart on Saturday afternoon, I saw one person walk up to Mr. Hart, shake his hand, and just start talking to him. I had to think; either that person was either talking to Mr. Hart about something he needed help with, or telling him how moved he was by his talks. Possibly something very different! I do not know, but what I do know is that Mr. Hart welcomed that person who needed him with openarms, someone who had never talked to him before most likely, and that just screamed "Jesus." Another time earlier in the day, when I was in line with some of my people from my group and Ms. Zolkos, there was a female who talked briefly with Mark Hart and it was clear that she was really happy and even joyful about something. Once again, probably something in his talks or what he was like, but it was almost certain that she had experienced Christ, and that is why she was happy. She had something happen in her life during that weekend. Then the priest in my confession who had totally put on God and absolved me of my sins and I myself received and awesome experience. 
Something also to note is that I think there was around 2,700 to 3,000 people attended Steubenville East, and that around 1,700, yes that is right, that is how many people went to confession! That is absolutely incredible! That is more than half the people there. A huge thanks to Steve Angrisano, Mark Hart, and all those other people who pushed that sacrament upon everyone I think should be shouted out to them.
During adoration, there was something incredible that happened. Now I had never experienced what I am about to tell you before, so I really did not have a clue as to what was going on in then moment, but my group leader explained to be afterward what it was. During adoration, the Holy Spirit reached many people in special ways, which resulted in people crying most likely feeling God's power. There was this one person though, who the Holy Trinity touched in a very special way. In the middle of adoration, there was someone who just started speaking indecipherable things. It went on for probably a few minutes, and then she quieted down. Is was after that I learned that she was speaking in Tongues, which is a universal language Jesus used to speak to people as so everyone understood him. Apparently now God speaks to people who need to be freed of something or of he has to talk to you. Something to the ring of that. To be able to speak to God like this is a gift that of course not everyone is given. My main point here is that even though I personally did not have a life changing experience that I could feel during that night of adoration, God showed me how powerful he is through other people by touching them in a very special way (crying and tongues).
Finally, on the last day, at basically the end of the conference, the priest called up first the young ladies who knew they were called to be a sister, or even if they had the smallest tugging that God was calling them to the sisterhood to come up in front of the stage before of the roughly 3,000 teens there. Before that they called up the sisters that were there. Then the bishop gave them a blessing and everyone up there went back to their seats who had come up. Of course, the priest then called up all the young men who feel a calling from God to become a priest or brother, whether that calling, feeling or tugging was big or small, it did not matter. Now let me explain. I have felt a feeling—a tugging for a while now, and I do not know whether it is a call to religious life or something else, but I know God needs and wants me to do something important with my life. He is calling me to something. So, I went up. The same deal happened with us, a blessing and all. The amount of guys up there from at least what I could tell was awesome. The thing I really want to get to is that when I finally made it back to my seat, everyone was like giving me high fives and congratulating me and stuff. Not that, but I suddenly was overcome by a rush of tears. I could have started crying, I think similar to the people in adoration, but I held back because I did not want everyone too see. I want to believe that at that moment, God touched my life. I believe that is why I was on the verge of tears—because God came to me.
Now I am going to put on my best "Steve" and highly encourage you. I encourage you to go to this conference next year if you can. Even if you cannot, that is fine! I encourage you to try and go to confession at least and receive that incredible feeling of God's grace. Really, I just want you to experience what I experience and find God for the first real time in a real way. There is just something about this weekend that is very hard to go away from and say you did not have a good time if you were open to opening yourself to God. This weekend was definitely an incredible weekend and just like God is calling me, he is calling you also to do something very special. Big or small, it does not matter, we all need to live for God if we do, we will find joy.
God Bless you all, 
Jason Dufour '16

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