Embedded among teenagers

Last week, the Catholic Courier sent me to cover the National Catholic Youth Conference. We had about 550 high school students and chaperones from our diocese among the 23,000 pilgrims from all over the country who converged in Indianapolis for the conference. NCYC provided the youth with opportunities to learn about the faith through keynote speakers, breakout workshops and mingling with men and women from religious orders. I traveled down to Indianapolis from Rochester Wednesday on one of the ten buses from our diocese, then spent Thursday, Friday and Saturday taking pictures and posting daily galleries before getting on the bus back to Rochester right after the closing Mass late Saturday night.

While I was exhausted by the end of the week, the energy and hope of these high school students has stuck with me after NCYC. It was inspiring to be around so many teenagers who are so passionate about being Catholic and practice the faith unabashedly. The moments in Lucas Oil Stadium with 23,000 other Catholics, all of whom were sitting together silently in prayer, had me awestruck.

The most difficult thing about covering NCYC was finding the right people to take pictures of. Since I’m working for a diocesan newspaper, I was only looking for teenagers from our diocese. My approach was to randomly walk around the many workshops and exhibits hoping to run into some of them. In hindsight, that sounds a lot like looking for a needle in a haystack. However, it worked out alright. I ended up with some pictures I liked as well as a lot of exercise from walking— the pedometer app on my phone says that I took over 20,000 steps on Saturday alone!

Here are some of my favorite pictures from the trip:

Riding on bus three to the National Catholic Youth Conference Nov. 20, 14-year-old Mary Panepento rests her head on her 15-year-old sister, Morgan Panepento's shoulder while Cooper Pievoni, 14, reads and Trevor Gross, 14, sleeps. All four are from St. Maximillian Kolbe Church in Ontario.

Riding on bus three to the National Catholic Youth Conference Nov. 20, 14-year-old Mary Panepento rests her head on her 15-year-old sister, Morgan Panepento’s shoulder while Cooper Pievoni, 14, reads and Trevor Gross, 14, sleeps. All four are from St. Maximillian Kolbe Church in Ontario.

Chris Franco waves his cell phone in the air to give off light as the crowd was encouraged to do by Israel Houghton, the first musician to perform during the opening ceremony of the National Catholic Youth Conference Nov. 21 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

Chris Franco waves his cell phone in the air to give off light as the crowd was encouraged to do by Israel Houghton, the first musician to perform during the opening ceremony of the National Catholic Youth Conference Nov. 21 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

Matt Maher performs for about 23,000 youth and adult pilgrims during the opening ceremony of the National Catholic Youth Conference Nov. 21 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

Matt Maher performs for about 23,000 youth and adult pilgrims during the opening ceremony of the National Catholic Youth Conference Nov. 21 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

(left to right) Jenna Brooks, Celina Rescott, Judy Rescott, Maggie Flurschutz and Mallory Colella dance and sing-along to "By the Love of God," the 2013 theme song for the National Catholic Youth Conference at the end of NCYC's opening ceremony Nov. 21 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

(left to right) Jenna Brooks, Celina Rescott, Judy Rescott, Maggie Flurschutz and Mallory Colella dance and sing-along to “By the Love of God,” the 2013 theme song for the National Catholic Youth Conference at the end of NCYC’s opening ceremony Nov. 21 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

Chris Borraccia, 14, from St. John the Evangelist Church in Spencerport listens to keynote speaker Ansel Augustine Saturday morning.

Chris Borraccia, 14, from St. John the Evangelist Church in Spencerport listens to keynote speaker Ansel Augustine Saturday morning.

Tyler Ray, 14, from St. Rita Church in Webster hugs Sister Marianette before hugging her handler, Sister Kelly Schuster, who is based out of New Jersey with the Salesians of Don Bosco. Ray was walking around NCYC with a sign that read "Free Hugs."

Tyler Ray, 14, from St. Rita Church in Webster hugs Sister Marianette before hugging her handler, Sister Kelly Schuster, who is based out of New Jersey with the Salesians of Don Bosco. Ray was walking around NCYC with a sign that read “Free Hugs.”

Maggie McAuliffe holds hands with other pilgrims from St. John the Evangelist in Spencerport while saying the Our Father during the closing Mass Saturday.

Maggie McAuliffe holds hands with other pilgrims from St. John the Evangelist in Spencerport while saying the Our Father during the closing Mass Saturday.

Dan Raftis, 15 from St. Patrick Church in Owego prays after receiving communion during the closing Mass Saturday.

Dan Raftis, 15 from St. Patrick Church in Owego prays after receiving communion during the closing Mass Saturday.

Pilgrims rush the stage after the closing Mass Saturday.

Pilgrims rush the stage after the closing Mass Saturday.

Police, volleyball and more

I’ve gotten out into the community more during my second month working at the Catholic Courier and El Mensajero Católico.

First-grader Jayla Simms laughs while Rochester police officer Jim Perry jokes about putting mismatching caps on her markers Oct. 31 at School 36, Henry W. Longfellow School. Perry, who patrols on the west side of Rochester, spends time with first graders once a week as part of Generation Two mentoring. This is Perry's second year volunteering with the program.

First-grader Jayla Simms laughs while Rochester police officer Jim Perry jokes about putting mismatching caps on her markers Oct. 31 at School 36, Henry W. Longfellow School. Perry, who patrols on the west side of Rochester, spends time with first graders once a week as part of Generation Two mentoring. This is Perry’s second year volunteering with the program.

Perry listens to Simms while working on a craft.

Perry listens to Simms while working on a craft.

Perry and Simms peel the paper backings off of foam Halloween stickers.

Perry and Simms peel the paper backings off of foam Halloween stickers.

Sophomore Hannah Cannon (2) celebrates with teammates between points Nov. 1 at Gates Chili High School. Mercy defeated Penfield in five sets to win the sectional title.

Sophomore Hannah Cannon (2) celebrates with teammates between points Nov. 1 at Gates Chili High School. Mercy defeated Penfield in five sets to win the sectional title.

Senior Terese Cannon celebrates between points Nov. 1 at Gates Chili High School. Mercy defeated Penfield in five sets to win the sectional title, and Cannon was named Most Valuable Player in the tournament.

Senior Terese Cannon celebrates between points Nov. 1 at Gates Chili High School. Mercy defeated Penfield in five sets to win the sectional title, and Cannon was named Most Valuable Player in the tournament.

Sophomores Megan Hobler (4) and Caroline Crilly (5) block a hit from Penfield Nov. 1 at Gates Chili High School. Mercy defeated Penfield in five sets to win the sectional title.

Sophomores Megan Hobler (4) and Caroline Crilly (5) block a hit from Penfield Nov. 1 at Gates Chili High School. Mercy defeated Penfield in five sets to win the sectional title.

Members of Mercy's volleyball team celebrate after defeating Penfield after five sets to claim the sectional title Nov. 1 at Gates Chili High School.

Members of Mercy’s volleyball team celebrate after defeating Penfield after five sets to claim the sectional title Nov. 1 at Gates Chili High School.

Bertha Bu Melian (right) and Aliza Gutierrez learn taiji from Carmelo Ramos during a conference for caregivers of Alzheimer's patients. Taiji can slow the progression of Alzheimer's disease, Ramos said.

Bertha Bu Melian (right) and Aliza Gutierrez learn taiji from Carmelo Ramos during a conference for caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients. Taiji can slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, Ramos said.

Katharina Nieves makes a flower out of tissue paper and a pipe cleaner during the Day of the Dead celebration.  Students from York Central School volunteered at a variety of craft tables at the celebration after learning about the tradition in their Spanish class.

Katharina Nieves makes a flower out of tissue paper and a pipe cleaner during the Day of the Dead celebration. Students from York Central School volunteered at a variety of craft tables at the celebration after learning about the tradition in their Spanish class.

High schoolers participate in team building games during a parent-pilgrim meeting to prepare for the National Catholic Youth Conference Oct. 20 at Church of the Transfiguration in Pittsford.

High schoolers participate in team building games during a parent-pilgrim meeting to prepare for the National Catholic Youth Conference Oct. 20 at Church of the Transfiguration in Pittsford.

Snow and leaves cover the lawn outside the diocesan Pastoral Center on the day of the first snowfall of winter in Gates.

Snow and leaves cover the lawn outside the diocesan Pastoral Center on the day of the first snowfall of winter in Gates.

On the job

I’m a little more than a month into my new job as New Media Coordinator at the Catholic Courier in Rochester, N.Y. My responsibilities are a mix of photography and website management for both the Courier and our Spanish-language paper, El Mensajero Católico. Here are a few of my favorite photos so far!

Kindergartner Jackson Hickey takes a prayerful stance while Father Bob Ring gives a blessing over the new Early Learning Center at St. Louis School in Pittsford Sept. 20.

Kindergartner Jackson Hickey takes a prayerful stance while Father Bob Ring gives a blessing over the new Early Learning Center at St. Louis School in Pittsford Sept. 20.

A student inspects the inside of a walnut with help from her teacher, Kathy Conezio Sept. 20 at St. Louis School in Pittsford.

A student inspects the inside of a walnut with help from her teacher, Kathy Conezio Sept. 20 at St. Louis School in Pittsford.

Kathy Conezio watches slugs with students during snack time in her 3-year-old preschool class at St. Louis School in Pittsford. Conezio has been a science consultant for Sesame Street since the late 1990s and began teaching at St. Louis School this year.

Kathy Conezio watches slugs with students during snack time in her 3-year-old preschool class at St. Louis School in Pittsford. Conezio has been a science consultant for Sesame Street since the late 1990s and began teaching at St. Louis School this year.

Father Tony Mugavero kisses a child during the sign of the peace at a Mass to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month Sept. 22 at Holy Apostles Church in Rochester.

Father Tony Mugavero kisses a child during the sign of the peace at a Mass to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month Sept. 22 at Holy Apostles Church in Rochester.

Liturgical dancers from Holy Apostles Church in Rochester line up before performing in a talent show to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month Sept. 22.

Liturgical dancers from Holy Apostles Church in Rochester line up before performing in a talent show to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month Sept. 22.

City employees learn to salsa during dance lessons over their lunch hour Oct. 15. The lessons were held as part of Hispanic Heritage Month.

City employees learn to salsa during dance lessons over their lunch hour Oct. 15. The lessons were held as part of Hispanic Heritage Month.

Nydia Rivera laughs with John Rodriguez after he fumbles several lines during rehearsal for "Macho's Place," a play written and directed by Rivera, Sept. 24 at Shoshin in Rochester. The actors speak in a combination of Spanish and English throughout the play.

Nydia Rivera laughs with John Rodriguez after he fumbles several lines during rehearsal for “Macho’s Place,” a play written and directed by Rivera, Sept. 24 at Shoshin in Rochester. The actors speak in a combination of Spanish and English throughout the play.