From the President

More Than Gold

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From the President

More Than Gold

“I love being a priest, and I have experienced so many blessings over the last 25 years. One of the greatest blessings has been Franciscan University’s Steubenville Youth Conferences.”

Autumn 2021 | Father Dave Pivonka

In This Article

I celebrated the 25th anniversary of my ordination in May. I love being a priest, and I have experienced so many blessings over the last 25 years. One of the greatest blessings has been Franciscan University’s Steubenville Youth Conferences.

I have been a speaker or homilist at these conferences every summer I’ve been a priest—well over 100 conferences. God does amazing things through them, and it’s moving to be with the tens of thousands of teens in attendance.

I served at my first conference about eight weeks after I was ordained. Back then, the conferences were held in a massive red and white tent, and that weekend it reached 95 degrees with 96 percent humidity. We had 3,500 teens packed into the tent. The theme for the conference was “More Than Gold,” a nod to the Olympics that would take place in Atlanta a few weeks later. I still remember the subject of the talk I gave that Friday night: Jesus. Jim Cowan was rocking out to “Mercy Is Falling.” God worked in the lives of the teens so powerfully.

But for me, the most memorable moments over the years have come through the encounters that demonstrate how God sees—and loves—each of us individually.

At a youth conference in Denver, we rented out the entire hotel conference center except one small banquet room. This room went to a newly married couple who had no idea their wedding reception was at the same place as a Catholic conference with 2,500 teens.

I ran into the couple and said I hoped the teens were not being too disruptive. On the contrary: The young man and woman were involved in youth ministry themselves and said they had been edified by the teens’ behavior. As they shared how important Christ was in their relationship, I said, “I have a crazy thought. Could you say a word to our teens?” They said they’d be honored.

So, at the beginning of our evening session, I invited the couple on stage. They shared the beauty of having Christ in the center of their relationship, why chastity was so important to them, and how 2,500 teens would always be a cherished memory of their wedding day. Tears freely flowed as they spoke. It was such a spontaneous, beautiful experience of God’s love.

Another time, a teen walked out of my men’s session after I challenged the guys to stop picking on their little brothers or sisters. I figured he wasn’t impressed with my exhortation. Minutes later, however, he approached me and said my words had struck his heart. Just the day before, he had been mean to his little brother and caused him to cry.

The teen continued, “I just called my little brother and told him I was sorry and that I loved him very much. Father Dave, that’s the kind of brother I want to be.”

Then, I remember a young gal, standing while all the teens around her were seated, her hands opened in front of her and face turned to the heavens. She was praying; really praying. Watching her brought tears to my eyes, and I told team members, “Look at her; how profoundly beautiful. This is why we do what we do. We facilitate encounters like this between Jesus and his kids.”

I have no doubt that to this day thousands of men and women tell stories to their children and friends about their encounters with Jesus at a Steubenville Conference—and how they changed the trajectory of their lives. And that the 16 percent of U.S. priests ordained last year who consider our Youth Conferences a significant influence on their vocation also recount their conference encounters with Christ to their parishioners.

I rejoice in all God has done and will do in our conferences. And I hope to see you, your children, or your parishioners at a conference for youth or adults in summer 2022!


Father Dave, TOR


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