BY HANNAH CRITES
The Christian Outreach Office, which reaches over 50,000 high school youth around the country every summer, recently announced new ways they plan to grow and encounter more youth around the country.
The office at Franciscan University plans to reach youth through a new partnership with NET ministries and LifeTeen International, as well as to students at Franciscan University through a conference only for students.
“A lot of young adults have this initial encounter with Christ and then wonder where they can go from here,” said John Beaulieu, director of partnership and engagement in the Christian Outreach Office, “when the reality is that God can take you to places we never could dream about or imagine.”
Beaulieu’s job is to build these new partnerships as well as oversee the planning of the 20 youth, five adult and two young adult conferences that Steubenville Conferences host. The theme of this summer’s conferences is “God Is.”
“There is a great portion of our society who is trying to deny the existence of God,” said Beaulieu. ” It’s introducing the idea that there is a God who is passionately in love with you. We’re going to take different aspects of that truth and unpack it so we can find a way to continue to find God in our lives and experience his love in other places after the conference is over.”
The two new conference locations include a fifth conference hosted on campus made possible by moving the Saint John Bosco conference to a Tuesday through Thursday time and allowing the Youth Conference to occur the following weekend.
The second conference is another conference in Canada that will be hosted at the Maple Leaf Garden in Toronto, Canada. The first Canadian conference is hosted in Halifax, Nova Scotia. According to Beaulieu, the new conference in Toronto sold out in less than a month.
In 2015, a new conference will be hosted in New York. Beaulieu is also looking for an additional city to host a new conference. In 2016, a conference will be added in Los Angeles.
“Part of (adding conferences) is doing the research to make sure there is a population base to support the conference and the right infrastructure to execute the plan,” said Beaulieu. “It’s quite involved.”
Along with new conferences, Steubenville Conferences have developed a new partnership with NET ministries and LifeTeen International. Together, the three organizations reach over 300,000 Catholic youth and hope to share resources and introduce youth to the church in new evangelistic ways.
“It’s not about trying to become the biggest and the best,” said Bealieu, “It’s about aligning ourselves to other ministers who share our missions and values and supporting one another’s efforts.”
LifeTeen currently hosts three Steubenville summer youth conferences. Steubenville Conferences will help recruit youth for NET Ministries and LifeTeen Missions. NET will give parishes that each mission visits resources from LifeTeen about building youth ministries and information about Steubenville Conferences.
“The Church often operates in silos,” Randy Raus, LifeTeen president and CEO told the National Catholic Register. “I think one of the things Pope Francis is calling us to do is reach out of ourselves – that ministries aren’t the be all and end all. If we got together with other ministries, we could have greater impact.”
All three ministries have the same mission: to give young people the tools they need to grow and develop a faith that will survive college and travel with them into adulthood so it can be passed on to their children.
Beaulieu said, “There is room for other ministries to join who we have similar missions and who we can identify. It’s a grand vision and a great hunger to reach out to more young people.”
The Christian Outreach office is also partnering with Franciscan University’s Student Life Office in order to host a young adult conference for Franciscan University students during the first weekend of the fall semester to kick off the school year.
“We have some of the best students in the country walking on this campus,” said Beaulieu, “it’s going to be cool to provide something for them right here on our own campus.”
The conference will be in the Finnegan Fieldhouse and hosted by Chris Stefanick with Katie Hartfiel and Megan Mastroianni as speakers, all of whom are Franciscan alumni.
There will also be a Steubenville Conference Reunion for all students who have previously attended a Steubenville conference on April 24 in the Gentile Gallery at 8:30 p.m. featuring Bob Rice, Chris Padgett and Deacon Ralph Poyo. Pizza will be provided.