Text and photos by Gregory A. Shemitz

The Diocese of Rockville Centre was represented by more than 160 teenagers, youth ministers, chaperones and volunteers at this weekend’s Steubenville NYC youth conference at St. John’s University in Jamaica, Queens.

The faith-focused event—which featured Mass, Eucharistic adoration, reconciliation opportunities, contemporary Christian music, guest speakers and small-group discussions—drew more than 1,700 participants from 11 states, from as far west as Colorado and as far south as North Carolina.

The conference also attracted 120 attendees from Canada and a group of priests and youth ministers from Spain.

“The Steubenville conference offers an opportunity for our teens to come together as a young church, a young church that is empowered by the love of Jesus Christ to be witnesses to their faith in their daily lives,” said Marianne Sheridan, director of the diocese’s youth and young adult ministries.

Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, is directing 25 youth conferences in North America in 2017. Six of the conferences, including the one in Queens, are co-sponsored by Life Teen. All told, more than 50,000 teens were expected to attend the conferences. This is the third consecutive summer that St. John’s has hosted Steubenville NYC.

“Our teens need to see that, as a church, we need them, we need their love, their joy, their enthusiasm and witness,” said Sheridan, who has helped plan the diocese’s participation at Steubenville NYC all three years.

“Yes, (the teens) are our future, but more importantly, they are our HERE and NOW. With open hearts, they will joyfully bring our Church into the future.”

Diocesan youth groups attending this year’s conference included: Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Centereach; Our Lady of Victory, Floral Park; St. John the Evangelist, Center Moriches; St. Joseph Church, Babylon; St. Joseph the Worker, East Patchogue; St. Martin of Tours, Bethpage; St. Matthew, Dix Hills; St. Patrick, Smithtown; St. Rose of Lima Church, Massapequa; St. William the Abbot, Seaford; and Holy Trinity Diocesan High School, Hicksville.

For more photos from the event, visit our Facebook page

Auxiliary Bishop Robert Brennan was the principal celebrant and homilist at the Saturday morning Mass at Carnesecca Arena. Father Joseph Fitzgerald, diocesan director of vocations, and Father Sean Magaldi of St. Patrick Church, Smithtown, were among the concelebrants. Seminarian Stephen Rooney assisted at the liturgy.

In his homily, Bishop Brennan urged his young audience to be passionate about their faith and to share it with the world.

“The love of Christ impels us to be on fire with Jesus Christ,” said Bishop Brennan. “He sends us forth from here as powerful witnesses for the Gospel… The world desperately needs credible, joyful witnesses of Jesus Christ.”

The conference ended on Sunday, with Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn celebrating morning Mass.