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2,500 expected for youth conference

‘Belong’ is the theme of the annual gathering planned for March 10-12 at Idaho Center

The following story appeared in the January 27 Idaho Catholic Register.

By Gene Fadness


NAMPA – The Idaho Catholic Youth Conference returns for yet another year at the Ford Idaho Center Sports Arena where about 2,500 high school-aged teens will hear from a number of nationally known speakers and musicians on March 10-12.

Some come in buses from as far away as Sandpoint, nearly 500 miles north of Boise, while others live less than an hour from the Nampa arena. However, all stay in hotels to get the full retreat-like experience of the weekend.

That’s drawn some criticism from parents who don’t understand why a teen from Nampa or nearby Boise is required to stay in a hotel.

“Being with their peers builds community,” said Andrew Furphy, director of Youth and Young Adult Evangelization for the Diocese of Boise. “We’re hoping the speakers will bring something to the youths that will challenge and direct them and cause conversation.” Where do they dissect and process that information? With each other in the hotels while the day’s events are still fresh in their minds.

The registration deadline for the conference, themed “Belong,” is Feb. 17. Young people can register through their parish.

Until about 10 years ago, the Diocese held youth conventions in four of the states regions: the Panhandle and north-central; west and west-central; south-central; and east. But in the last decade – except for during the COVID years of 2020 and 2021 – the Diocese has organized a statewide conference that buoys the spirits of Catholic youths who often feel like a tiny minority in their rural communities that are part of a state that is still considered a “mission” state for Catholicism.

The larger, diocesan-wide conference helps the young people see the full strength of the Catholic community. In addition, the larger registration numbers generated by a statewide conference makes it easier to afford and attract nationally known speakers and musicians.

In addition to strengthening the faith of the young people, another goal of the conference is to strengthen parishes, Furphy said. “We emphasize to the parishes that we want to partner with them so that they leave this conference with a deeper commitment to their parish community,” he said. “ICYC isn’t in existence just to have a good event, but to support parishes and support parish youth ministries.”

Bishop Peter Christensen will celebrate Mass on Sunday, March 12, and Bishop Liam Cary of the Diocese of Baker, Ore., will celebrate the Saturday, March 11, Mass. The conference typically attracts young people from eastern Oregon as well.

This year, the “God Squad,” a group of about 35 young people who help behind the scenes and who bring the energy up by leading the music with singing, dancing and skits, will come from the North and North-Central deaneries, which encompasses parishes from Grangeville north to the Canadian border. Each year, the Diocese’s six deaneries take turns in recruiting young people to make up the God Squad.

The conference will feature, for the second consecutive year, hip-hop artist Joe Melendrez as emcee who, Furphy said, is “back by popular demand.”

Joe Melendrez

From as young as 15, when he appeared on MTV, Melendrez has had a love for performing. After his MTV appearance, Melendrez went on a retreat and experienced a deep conversion that led him to dedicate his life to the Lord. He shares the Gospel in many unique ways, from his development of a faith-based clothing line,

“God Swagg Apparel,” to his release of five major Catholic hip-hop albums.

Melendrez has a bachelor’s degree in Religious Studies from the University of Dayton, which equipped him to become a religion teacher and youth minister for more than 10 years. Since then, his ministry of music and evangelization has taken him to Europe, Africa, Australia, South America and across the United States.

Other speakers and musicians include:

Father Agustino Torres, C.F.R.

Father Agustino Torres, C.F.R. is a priest with the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal based in the Bronx, New York. His community is dedicated to working with the poor and to evangelization. He is founder of “Corazon Puro” and “Latinos por la Vida,” which are organizations dedicated to awakening and accompanying young leaders in areas of great need. He hosts the EWTN Español television show “Clic con Corazon Puro,” as well as in English. He now hosts a new EWTN program, “Icons.”

Father Torres was one of the friars who founded Catholic Underground, an apostolate of the Friars of the Renewal. He is internationally sought out to address topics like the Church’s teachings about human sexuality, vocational discernment, and missionary discipleship, among other topics.

Dana Catherine

Dana Catherine is a young singer/songwriter, speaker, and former youth minister from North Carolina. She travels throughout the United States to encourage and inspire others with her songs and witness. Growing up in a Catholic family, Catherine always had a strong faith, but it wasn’t until she went to college at UNC-Chapel Hill that her relationship with God truly deepened.

Through the ups and downs of college life, Catherine began to understand that true and lasting happiness, peace, and purpose is found in Christ alone. Only then did she realize that God was calling her to step out and share His truth and love with others using the musical gifts she was given.

Danny Ray

Danny Ray for 18-plus years has been a professional magician, illusionist and keynote speaker. He is the author of “Magnificent Mark,” and “No, I Can’t Make Your Wife Disappear.” He as a Masters of Divinity degree and 25-plus years of ministry experience. He has performed thousands of magic shows around the world.

Ray says that when people are in a state of awe and wonder, they are more open to hearing deep spiritual truth. One the world’s premiere illusionists, he recently fooled the legendary duo Penn & Teller on their show, “Penn and Teller Fool Us.”

Thomas Muglia

Thomas Muglia is a singer/song-writer and worship leader from Tempe, Ariz.

Under his dad’s leadership in the church, he began making music from a young age. Muglia recently graduated from Arizona State University, spending most of his time at ASU’s Catholic Newman Center, leading students in music at Masses, worship nights, and community outreach events. Through his time in campus ministry, he’s discovered a passion for honest songwriting and music that speaks to the heart. He released his debut album “The Return” in February of 2019.

If you enjoyed this story and would like to read more like it, please consider buying a subscription to the Idaho Catholic Register. Your $20 yearly subscription also supports the work of the Diocese of Boise Communications Department, which includes not only the newspaper, but this website, social media posts and videos. You can subscribe here, or through your parish, or send a check to 1501 S. Federal Way, Boise, ID, 83705: or call 208-350-7554 to leave a credit card payment. Thank you, and God bless you.

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