Dioceses urged to help young people from Gulf Coast get to conference

By Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- All dioceses and parishes planning to participate in the 2005 National Catholic Youth Conference in Atlanta in October are being asked to help young people from the Gulf Coast who now find they cannot attend because of economic hardship brought on by Hurricane Katrina.

The Catholic Youth Foundation, which works in conjunction with the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry, made the plea Sept. 22.

A news release issued by the U.S. bishops' conference in Washington said that originally about 600 participants from the region were slated to attend the Oct. 27-30 conference, but now only a fraction of that number can attend. About 18,500 participants are expected at the conference.

The foundation is working through the federation to ask dioceses and parishes to sponsor at least one person from the Gulf Coast.

Sponsors are asked to give $500 to cover the cost of registration, housing and a portion of travel and/or meal money for a participant. Youth ministry directors from the dioceses affected by Katrina will distribute the financial resources to their conference delegations. These delegations include young people who have been relocated to other cities as a result of the hurricane.

"We all want to help people whose lives have been turned upside down by Hurricane Katrina," said Bishop Dennis M. Schnurr of Duluth, Minn, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Subcommittee on Youth and Young Adults, who praised the sponsorship effort.

"We especially want to help young people bring order back to their lives. Being able to attend the conference that these teenagers had planned on for many months will help them get their lives back to normal," he said in a statement.

"Being together with their fellow Catholic teens from all around the country will demonstrate dramatically how real the Catholic community is for them. It also lets the youth who contribute to helping their fellow youth in states far away know what solidarity can mean to everyone," the bishop said.

Dioceses and parishes are asked to send an e-mail by Oct. 8 to Katrina@nfcym.org with the number of young people they pledge to help. The federation will contact the Gulf Coast dioceses with the number of pledges available and distribute the finances. Checks should be made payable to CYFUSA, 415 Michigan Ave. NE, #40, Washington, DC 20017.

Greg Miller, youth minister at St. Alphonsus Parish in Ocean Springs, Miss., in the Diocese of Biloxi, said he feels that the experience of attending at the Atlanta conference will help young people affected by Katrina cope with what has happened to them.

Before the storm, Miller's parish had planned to send seven delegates. A week after losing everything because of Katrina, Miller walked into the diocesan youth ministry office and begged officials not to cancel their participation in the conference. His request led diocesan officials to seek financial assistance to send delegates.

"By God, Mississippi will be in that (Georgia) Dome and we will have shoes on; we may not know whose shoes we will be wearing but we will have shoes on," Miller said.

Copyright (c) 2005 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

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