CANTON – As the Jubilee Year of Mercy comes to a close on Nov. 20, teens who attended the Diocesan Youth Conference here have been asked to continue acts of mercy throughout their lives.
“Mercy Begins With Me” was the theme this year for the annual Diocesan Youth Convention (DYC ‘16), held at Canton St. Michael Parish Nov. 6.
More than 200 teens attended, participating in “Mercy in Motion” stations and listening to a variety of speakers. The day ended with a question and answer session with Bishop George V. Murry, S.J., followed by Mass.
Ben Walther, an OCP/Spirit and Song artist, presented the keynote address. Walther has spoken at the National Catholic Youth Conference, the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress and the National Catholic Singles Conference. Originally from Texas, Walther and his wife and six children live in North Canton and are members of St. Paul Parish.
In his presentation, Walther encouraged the teens to take a look at Pope Francis’ letter on the Year of Mercy. He explained that it would help them understand what mercy is, why it is important, and what Jesus expects of His people.
“In that letter, [the pope] says some really profound stuff,” Walther said. “He says in the very first line of the letter that ‘the face of Jesus Christ is the face of mercy.’ Now if you are like me, I was baptized as a baby and became a child of God. My parents drove me to Mass Sunday after Sunday.
“But I didn’t really know who God was. I didn’t really know who Jesus was. Do you know the face of Jesus?” Walther asked. “Do you know Him?” “Have you ever studied the face of Jesus’ that closely?”
“Do you really know Him that well?” Walther continued. “Have you gazed upon his face? Have you studied His movements, His words, His actions? Our theme for the day is ‘Mercy Begins with Me.’ What I want you to know right off the bat is mercy continues with me.”
“Mercy continues with us. And if we are honest, mercy began with Christ. Mercy began with the love God gave to the world,” Walther said.
In addition to the keynote address, there was a question and answer session with Bishop George V. Murry, S.J. One young man inquired what to do when faced with people who are not believers, such as atheists, during his school day.
The bishop replied that if he thought the person would be open to a constructive, positive conversation and truly wanted to know about the faith, then he would attempt to answer their questions or address their doubts. If the individual did not seem open or wanted only to argue, “I would shut the conversation down right there.”
The teens were encouraged to choose from a menu of break-out sessions that included such topics as human trafficking, relationships, addictions, digital spirituality and other topics.
The day also offered an opportunity to see “Mercy in Motion,” with a variety of stations directed by volunteers from such local organizations as Hammer & Nails, Walsh University, St. Joseph Soup Kitchen and Alliance Catholic Worker House.
Most stops were interactive, with opportunities for volunteer moments to make a placemat, write a card, or assemble a treat bag for people in need.
(A photo from the Mercy In Motion station with the Alliance Catholic Worker was featured on the front page of the newspaper, as well as on the website, and pictures of Bishop Murry and Ben Walther accompanied the article in the November 18 edition.)