This is a true story. Over 800 Catholic teenagers gathered at the Adam's Mark looking for a way to better understand their faith. The foot of snow that fell the night before could not deter them from attending the 66th annual Diocesan Youth Convention, held over the weekend of March 2-4 at the Adam's Mark Hotel in downtown Buffalo.
"True Story," the theme of the weekend, came from the discernment of the diocesan Youth Board. It is a common social media phrase used when teens tell of their adventurous monkeyshines. The theme seems relevant in an era of fake news and alternative facts. The goal of the convention is to show the teens that the story of Jesus Christ can be seen as objective truth.
East Aurora's own Carrie Ann Ford led the music on the opening Friday, bringing the teens to their feet and preparing them for two days of worship, friendship and some education on the true story of Jesus.
Kathryn M. Goller, director of the diocesan Department of Youth & Young Adult Ministry, which sponsors the convention, welcomed everyone while "Thunder" by Imagine Dragon played. She explained that the song is about their own personal truth.
"It's about standing outside of the crowd, not letting other people define you by their expectations, but living your own true story," she said. "That song, I think, really connects with my goal for each of us, that we are brave enough to be counter-cultural. That we are brave enough to live fully our commitment to living out THE True Story, and living out our connection to that true story, the person of Jesus Christ."
Doug Tooke, one of two keynote speakers for the weekend, prepared the crowd for adoration by introducing teens who gave witness to how Jesus helped them in the face of violence, doubt and complacency.
"It takes a lot courage to be an authentic witness," Tooke said, explaining that courage comes from the Italian word cuore, meaning heart. Courage is literally living from the heart.
The convention seemed to get off to a good start, with teens eagerly joining in on service projects that would feed the poor and create sleeping mats for the homeless. In another timely decision, teens also wrote letters to the survivors of the recent Florida school shooting.
Also during the opening Expo, the young people had the opportunity to play volleyball, paint doves of peace, and play a game of Good News or Fake News presented by the Felician Sisters.
Most of the kids seemed happy with the convention so far. "I think it's great for young people our age. It keeps us together and keeps us wondering about our faith. It helps us keep our mind rolling and wanting to know more about it," said Macadam Gadewotz, 16, from Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Silver Creek.