It was quite a sight to behold when 2,000-some young people gathered in the convention center at Crowne Plaza DIA June 24-26 for the Steubenville of the Rockies youth conference.
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Steubenville is one of the Archdiocese of Denver’s most popular youth events, organized each year by the Office of Evangelization and Family Life Ministries in conjunction with the Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio. The event draws youth and adults representing dioceses and parishes from all around the country, and shows the vibrancy of the Catholic faith among the youth of the nation.
The theme for this year’s conference was “Thirst,” with an emphasis on Romans 5:8, and teens were treated to a variety of talks by several speakers, including Sarah Swafford, Jason Evert and Brian Greenfield. Father Jim Crisman was the main celebrant for the weekend, but Denver Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila said Mass on Saturday morning.
The separate men’s and women’s talks are often highlights of Steubenville, but this year in particular, Jason Evert gave a talk titled “Love, Same Sex Attraction and Tolerance,” and it was so popular that Evert actually delivered the talk at a later time for those who were turned away, marking the first time such a thing had happened in the history of Steubenville.
The Saturday night Eucharistic holy hour is widely heralded as the most powerful moment of the entire conference, and it was no different this year. Thousands of teens knelt before the Blessed Sacrament as Father Crisman led a Eucharistic Procession around the convention center, and the presence of the Holy Spirit led many to raise their hands in humble worship.
The week prior to Steubenville, several local youths attended a LEAD retreat, a five-day spiritual preparation for the conference. Logan Yerian-Higgins, an 11th grade parishioner at Sacred Heart Parish in Fruita, said being a part of LEAD helped him to break out of his shell and more fully prepare for Steubenville.
“It was probably the best week of my life,” he said.
This year marked the third time at Steubenville for Marian Bettinger, an 11th grader at Holy Trinity in Westminster. She was also a part of LEAD, and said that doing the retreat in preparation for Steubenville has helped her prayer life immensely.
“To be able to discover prayer and actually talk with God and have a conversation with God, that is life changing,” Bettinger said. “I’ve had powerful experiences in adoration where I’ve been moved to understand God’s love for me. During this week, I’ve really grown in prayer.”