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After 2-year hiatus, ICYC returns with speakers, music, worship

The following story appeared in the February 25 Idaho Catholic Register.

Father Rob Galea is making a return appearance to Idaho when he speaks and performs at the upcoming Idaho Catholic Youth Conference. (Courtesy photo)

By Gene Fadness


In March of 2020, a busload of about 30 teens from eastern and south-central Idaho were on their way to Nampa, bound for the Idaho Catholic Youth Conference. ICYC had become an important annual tradition, a time for Catholic teenagers, a minority in Idaho, to gather for fellowship and worship and to be strengthened and encouraged by the thousands of like-minded young people from across the state and neighboring Oregon.

The 30 on that bus were more than participants. They were the pre-selected members of the “God Squad,” who would be the student leaders for the weekend, helping to lead the songs and skits and direct the flow of the three-day gathering of thousands at the sports complex adjacent to the Idaho Center.

They were 10 minutes from reaching Twin Falls when official word came: ICYC had been canceled due to growing concerns over the coronavirus pandemic, even though Idaho did not have a reported case as that point.

That same pandemic forced the cancellation of the 2021 ICYC, the second, or what is, at minimum, half of a high-school youth experience. Those who were sophomores in 2019 didn’t realize they would be experiencing their last ICYC, which is a high-light for so many youths.

The Omicron variant of COVID still lingering, there was fear that the event could be canceled a third year, especially in late December and early January as another surge drove up case numbers. “Speaking to our youth ministers and to our youth, the strong desire is to have it,” said Deacon Sal Carranza, director of Youth and Young Adult Evangelization for the Diocese of Boise. Numbers might be down from the nearly 2,000 who attended the 2019 event, “because COVID is still a concern and we are respectful of that,” Carranza said, “but the over-whelming desire was to, please have it for those who want it.”

Thus, in big, bold letters on the website: “ICYC is back!!!!” The event is planned for March 11-13 at the Idaho Center Sports Arena in Nampa.

In some respects, Deacon Carranza and his team feel like they are “starting all over again” as far as the planning process goes, having “fallen out of a rhythm” after two canceled events. There have also been hiccups with a new registration portal. “This year, one word I have used over and over is ‘messy.’ This year has been messy, but that messiness has allowed us to be more patient and pastoral,” Carranza said.

He credits youth ministers from across the state and their helpers in parishes in getting students registered. “They are the ones who help us fill the seats. Without them we would be left with a great setting and some amazing speakers but no one to be blessed by all that our Lord has prepared for them.”

As in years past, the conference will include nationally known speakers, Masses celebrated by Bishop Peter Christensen of the Diocese of Boise and Bishop Liam Cary of the Diocese of Baker, Ore., Adoration, Reconciliation, a vocations dinner with consecrated religious order brothers and sisters, and music provided by the Alex Street Band.

“We are also more being more mindful that many of the youth may not be conditioned for the intensity of ICYC, so we want to have more downtime for them so they can process everything they are experiencing,” Deacon Carranza said. “Because of this pandemic, they haven’t been around this many youth in a long time.”

These are some of the speakers who will be participating in the conference:

FATHER ROB GALEA serves in the Sandhurst Diocese in the state of Victoria, Australia. A native of Malta, he is a singer and songwriter with an international fan base. Apart from a series of recordings and CD releases, Father Galea has also written a number of songs for various campaigns and international

conferences. His book, “Breakthrough: A Journey from Desperation to Hope” (Ave Maria Press) recounts his past in the club and gang scene during his teen and young adult years before returning to the Catholic faith in which he was raised. His book is being adapted into a movie.

Galea entered seminary at age 21. In 2008, together with late Bishop Joseph Grech of Sandhurst, he co-founded the Stronger Youth Program, a series of youth retreats, rallies and small groups, which expanded from the Diocese of Sandhurst into Perth and South Australia. He was ordained to the priesthood on Nov. 5, 2010 and is currently an assistant priest at St Kilian’s Catholic Church in the Diocese of Sandhurst.

He has a significant evangelistic and outreach ministry, speaking and singing at schools, conferences and churches around Australia and the world. He performed at events before Pope Benedict XVI in 2011 and an estimated 500,000 pilgrims in Sydney. He was a contestant on the Australian version of reality TV talent show The X Factor in 2015, but withdrew after struggling to balance the demands of the show with pastoral commitments.

His website is

EMILY WILSON is a speaker, YouTuber, author, and musician

who travels the world sharing her faith through witness and worship at women’s conferences, universities, and events across the globe.

Wilson was encouraged by her third-grade teacher to sing in front of the church at the age of 7. With continued support from her high school choir teacher, she started leading music regularly. She planned to become a sports broadcaster and earned a degree in broadcast journalism, but after reading “On the Dignity and Vocation of Women” (Mulieris Dignitatem), she felt a call to use her education in speaking and presenting to spread the Gospel.

After working for two years as a full-time high school campus minister, Wilson made the transition to full-time traveling ministry beginning in 2013. She has spoken and played music at dozens of national and international youth, young adult, and women’s events in two dozen states and numerous countries, as well as FOCUS, Life Teen, and Steubenville conferences, and the Australian and Swiss Youth Festivals. She has presented at universities including the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Florida, George Mason University, and many more.

Emily Wilson, one of the speakers at this year’s ICYC, has written children’s books as well as books directed toward young Christian women. (Courtesy photo)

Wilson’s You Tube channel has more than 125,000 subscribers and more than 12 million views. She makes videos on femininity, faith, dating and friendship. In the summer of 2016, she published her first book, “I Choose the Sky,” a scriptural devotion with reflections on 17 women in the Bible and what women can learn from their lives, decisions, and encounters with Christ. In the spring of 2018, Wilson released, “Go Bravely: Becoming the Woman You Were Created to Be.” This book unpacks 20 ways a young Christian woman can incorporate her faith into her daily life. In 2020, she published her first children’s book, “God’s Glorious Girl,” and released her fourth book in the fall of 2020, “Awaken My Heart,” a yearly devotional for Chris-tian women of all ages. Her newest children’s book is, “God’s Brave Boy.”

Wilson is married to her Dutch husband, Daniël, and they have two sons, Zion and Jedediah. Her website is

lives in Virginia with his wife and two children. He is director of Religious Education and Youth Ministry at his parish in Virginia Beach.

Raised in the inner city of Waterbury, Conn., Rivera’s method of avoiding the streets became God and hip-hop. For more than a decade, he has been an international speaker and performer. His life is devoted to the new evangelization, and his upbeat urban approach has made his message entertaining and easy to understand. Our faith is not boring and neither is Rivera.

His website is

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