STEUBENVILLE, OH—Franciscan University of Steubenville will offer two new Summer Youth Conferences in 2014, one in Toronto, Canada, and one at Franciscan University in Ohio, bringing the total schedule to 20 conferences in 11 states and 2 Canadian provinces. In summer 2013, over 42,000 teens attended these Catholic youth weekends, which seek to ignite the minds and hearts of participants with love for God and love for the Catholic Church.
The Toronto youth conference will be held July 4-6 at the historic and recently refurbished Maple Leaf Gardens. It will be the second youth conference in Canada and joins the one held for the last seven years in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, which annually draws 600-1,000 teens.
John Beaulieu, director of Partnerships and Engagement for the Christian Outreach Office at Franciscan University, says that in the past, while some Canadian teens were able to acquire passports and cross the border to attend conferences, it proved difficult for others.
“This puts the youth conference right in their own diocese,” says Beaulieu, who expects the conference in Toronto to draw upwards of 2,500 teens. He has been working with Father Frank Portelli, the director of the Office of Catholic Youth for the Archdiocese of Toronto, for nearly a year to plan the conference.
Father Portelli said he has received much positive feedback about the Toronto conference.
“We want a high-energy, intensely, unabashedly Catholic celebration that focuses on young people in high school,” Father Portelli said. “It’s the beginning of what I hope will be a growth opportunity for Steubenville in Toronto.”
Beaulieu said that in addition to the surrounding area, the Toronto conference hopes to draw from across the region, including Hamlin, Ottawa, and Northern Ontario.
The new youth conference in Ohio will be the fifth one offered on Franciscan University’s main campus each summer. The new conference will make it easier for youth within a 300-mile radius to attend, says Beaulieu. It will also give more options to youth groups that embark on 20-hour bus rides from as far away as Texas and Louisiana.
Beaulieu expects that as word spreads, the campus conferences will reach total capacity of over 11,000 youth in the next five years.
“They want to come to Franciscan University, the home site that sparked the youth conference phenomenon,” says Beaulieu.“The first youth conference was held on the campus of Franciscan University in 1976. They know there is a strong presence of the Franciscan friars here, they appreciate praying in our Portiuncula Chapel, and spending a weekend in prayer and fellowship on this very Catholic campus.”
The conferences are an outreach of Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, and are co-sponsored by local bishops, youth organizations, and diocesan offices to create a one-of-a-kind weekend immersion into the Catholic faith for teens. Renowned youth speakers give talks on chastity and living the Catholic faith at home and at school, and equip teens with the tools they need to live out their faith daily. In addition to the talks, teens have the opportunity for the sacrament of confession, and take part in praise and worship, Mass, and eucharistic adoration.
For more information on all Franciscan University Youth Conferences, visit the recently expanded website, www.steubenvilleconferences.com. Registration for all on-campus youth conferences and Steubenville Toronto begins on January 13.