Teens fill St. Agnes Church for youth conference

More than 950 youth, adults attend event sponsored by diocese

GREEN BAY — The Green Bay Youth Conference, the second of its kind, held on Sunday, Dec. 6, focused on the theme, “Master, I want to see,” based on the story of Bartimaeus, the blind beggar in Mark’s Gospel.

Mary Hyska of Holy Rosary Society, St. Agnes Chapter, offers rosaries and other materials to boys attending the Green Bay Youth Conference Dec. 6 at St. Agnes Church. More than 950 people attended the event. (Sam Lucero | The Compass)

St. Agnes Parish hosted the event that welcomed more than 950 participants including high school students, priests, youth ministers, chaperones and volunteers. The day began with music provided by the Lifeteen Band. The day’s host was youth minister, Jon Blevins.

The Green Bay youth were inspired by a powerful message from world-renowned speaker, Ennie Hickman. He is president of Adore Ministries, a community of Catholic lay missionaries, single men and women, married couples, and families, called by their baptism to mission.

During the conference, Hickman’s talk highlighted a number of life stories. One was about a friend’s daughter who began to lose her eyesight at a very young age. After surgery as she was healing, she was able to enjoy her favorite movie, “Finding Nemo,” which, up until that time, was only a series of voices.   One day after surgery, however, she delighted in the fact of finally seeing that Nemo was a fish. She was able to see something that was there all along.

Hickman drew the comparison to the shepherds, the first people who got the news of the birth of Jesus. It wasn’t the Pharisees, or the kings who had their lives together to be the first to welcome Jesus. He humored the crowd and said, “They were busy that night. God intentionally went to the dirtiest, scummiest dudes. The reason they had to smell like their sheep was so that the sheep would follow! He hung out with fishermen and prostitutes and tax collectors. So if you’re not all together today, welcome! This is the Catholic faith. We are not a museum for saints and for people who have their lives put together. We are a hospital for sinners who are in need of healing.”

Then Hickman talked about Bartimaeus, who was a well-known blind beggar and part of the community. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.” Bartimaeus was in need and aware that he didn’t have it all together, said Hickman. “He knew he needed mercy. He cried out all the more, plus he didn’t care what others were thinking. ‘I need healing in my life.’ This is the word for us today. Jesus is calling you to him right now, today. Take heart. Look at me. Jesus is calling you to him right now, today.”

Hickman’s gift to connect with the youth came with his poignant questions. “What do you need right now more than anything? Do you need more grace? Do you need more courage? Do you need to persevere? The blind man said, ‘Master, I want to see.’

“Once we see God and for what and who he truly is, then everything will fall into place,” said Hickman. “So when we see him for who he truly is, we can say, he’s the one who can heal me. I am constantly blown away by his goodness.”

Sunday’s agenda also included separate break-out sessions for the young women and men, along with smaller group discussions. Adoration and the sacrament of reconciliation were also part of the day. The conference culminated with Mass with Bishop David L. Ricken as presider and homilist, as well as many priest concelebrants.

There were a number of organizations that displayed information about their missions available to the participants, including Pro-Life of Wisconsin, Teens Encounter Christ (TEC) Anchor of Hope, the UW-Oshkosh Newman Center, the Shrine of our Lady of Good Help and Relevant Radio.

Bruce McEwing, a volunteer for the event and a member of Nativity Parish in Green Bay who is actively involved in the youth of the diocese, sees a great trend in roughly the last seven years. “The new evangelization is finally happening right now, here in Green Bay,” he said. “All we do is crack open the door and let the Holy Spirit in and let God do the rest.”

In a separate interview, Hickman weaved the mission of Adore Ministries and his role in it. He emphasized the fact that there are many areas in this country that don’t have active youth groups, like the Green Bay Diocese.

“Most people are naïve to the fact that the new evangelization, as much as we use those buzz words, is not reaching everybody,” he said. “That’s really the basis of Adore Ministry. We really want to go to the places where the Gospel is not being preached in a quality way. I can’t help but serve and speak about the goodness of the Lord to others.”

Hickman has traveled the country and abroad for more than 15 years. Adore Ministries reaches out to the marginalized and the forgotten and seeks to bring quality ministry to the underserved youth and young adults in America. Hickman and his wife, Cana, have seven children ranging in age from 1 to 13.