BY: HEATHER SHAW, DIOCESAN YOUTH MINISTER

Every summer, students from across Alaska gather together in Anchorage for the Alaska Catholic Youth Conference. A long-standing tradition, and a collaborative effort of all three dioceses. ACYC is the highlight of the summer for many high schoolers and has quickly become the highlight of my year. This conference is a 4-day event that aims to give high schoolers an opportunity to grow in their relationship with Christ and learn about living out the Catholic faith.

Over the last two years, I have had the pleasure of being one of four coordinators of the event, and while this is always the goal, it never ceases to amaze me how much fun this conference truly is (even as a chaperone).

This year, we had 9 students from the Diocese of Juneau participate in the conference. Being so far away from Anchorage, we have the added challenge of extensive travel. However, the journey is an awesome opportunity for prayer and reflection, similar to a pilgrimage, and a great bonding experience for the youth.

Along the way, we were hosted by the communities of Sacred Heart parish in Haines, and Holy Rosary parish in Tok (part of the diocese of Fairbanks) and we are grateful for their welcome and support! After driving through the most beautiful parts of Alaska and Canada, the students arrive in Anchorage and are hosted by Lumen Christi High School. They then dive into all the events the conference offers, including Adoration, confession, workshops, daily mass, and even a concert with Jesse Manibusan!

One student from Juneau, Cameron Benning, an incoming high school senior, has
been to ACYC four times and plans to go again next year in 2018. He says, “My favorite
parts of ACYC are the music and the friendships I make with people from other parts of
Alaska. ACYC always has a great impact on my faith life, and I learn a lot, especially from
the workshop talks and keynote speakers.”

Malina Sargeant, who graduated from Thunder Mountain High School this year, added, “The workshop talks are really cool because there are a variety of subjects to learn about so there’s really a talk for everyone.”

This year, ACYC featured speakers from across the country and even had many local speakers, including our very own Deacon Steve Olmstead. While the workshops are a vital part of the ACYC, the fruits of the conference extend beyond what the students learn in the classroom.

As I said before, ACYC is the highlight of my year as a high school youth minister.
There are many reasons for this, but one of the main reasons is being able to watch the
youth create strong, Christ-centered friendships with other students from different parts
of Alaska. The sense of community that grows between these kids during the conference
is really beautiful.

Malina Sargeant also shared with me her sentiments on this aspect of ACYC. She said, “I started going my freshman year of high school and one of the best parts of ACYC is the fellowship. I love going back each year to see friends I made during previous years.”

Plans for ACYC 2018 are already in the works! It will be held in Anchorage from June 4-7. I am excited to help organize this event that has such an impact of the youth of the Diocese of Juneau. My hope is to bring as many students from our diocese as possible!