He thought he would stay on the sidelines. But Jacob Olivares found himself in the center of it all.

The Palmdale teen held his candle tight as he processed into the National Catholic Youth Conference (NCYC) with dozens of other teens chosen to accompany Los Angeles Archbishop José H. Gomez in a Eucharistic procession. The 16-year-old said it was a moment he’ll never forget.

“I assumed I was just going to be a watcher but I got to be a contributor. I got to be a part of something big,” said Olivares, a parishioner of St. Mary Church in Palmdale. “It was really cool.”

Being part of something bigger than yourself was one of the major themes of the NCYC, which drew nearly 3,000 young Catholics to the Long Beach Convention Center the weekend of Nov. 10-12.

The West Coast conference included musical performances, speeches, and workshops for ministry leaders. (NCYC)

Sponsored by the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry, the event included speakers, breakout sessions, music, and Mass. Youth ministers, diocesan staff, and clergy also participated in workshops for those in leadership. Normally held in Indianapolis, NCYC headed west this year after the urgings of Archbishop Gomez, who wanted the conference more accessible to local youth. The archbishop welcomed the 450 member LA delegation with a private Mass.

“It is a beautiful celebration of faith,” said Archbishop Gomez during his homily. “And I think for all of us in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles it’s a great blessing to welcome so many young people from other places.”

Christina Lamas said she watched the teens’ happiness build over the course of three days.   

“There is a hunger. … The pandemic increased that hunger to gather with their peers,” said Lamas. “To witness firsthand their excitement speaks to that need on the West Coast.”

“It created a space for them to encounter the Lord in a personal way and through each other,” said Dayrin Perez, coordinator of youth ministry. “… Hearing their experiences left me inspired and full of hope! The young Church is alive!”

“One goal — an encounter with Christ. That’s it,” said Llamas. “Then I hope they take this back to their parishes and live it out.”

Full story at Angelus News.