Dan Anguis is a jovial, energetic man who quickly moves from booth to booth as the sounds of instruments tuning streams from the auditorium not twenty feet away. The doors of the Farmington Civic Center have just opened, and crowds of teens, all wearing colorful t-shirts to identify them by group, stream into the lobby.
To a casual observer, what may seem like the beginning of a large concert or show is actually the kickoff of the first Southwest Catholic Youth Conference. The booths contain presentations on chastity and pro-life groups, the instruments are gearing up for hymns, and Anguis, the director of the pro-life group LifeGuard, sponsor of the event, is there with his team to make sure this first-time event is a success.
The dioceses of Gallup and Pueblo, Gallup’s neighbor to the north, helped to sponsor the event. Both Bishop James Wall of Gallup and Bishop Fernando Isern of Pueblo were in attendance.
In the days following, it became clear that the event had been a huge success.
“There was definitely a desire for something like this to be brought to the region,” said Anguis. “The fact that God brought us nearly 800 kids our first year was incredible…to our knowledge this was the largest Catholic Youth Conference ever put on in this region and we only expect it to grow.”
With featured speakers including Jason Evert, whose books include “How To Find Your Soulmate Without Losing Your Soul”, Anguis noted that the main goal of the conference was to increase chastity, partly motivated by seeing so many rosaries dangling from cars at the Durango Planned Parenthood.
“We pray that teens were moved by the message of chastity and strengthened in their Catholic faith. Both of those goals go hand-in-hand, really. You can’t expect to live a pure chaste life without the grace of God from the sacraments in the Church.”
At the conference, these sacrifices were provided in abundance. Interspersed throughout the talks were priests, ready and willing to hear confessions. A Mass celebrated by both bishops was held just before supper, and the final event of the evening culminated in Eucharistic procession and adoration.
Rachel and Dominic Boucher attended the conference with their mother, Rebecca Boucher, and a small group of other students and parents from Gallup Catholic School.
“There’s just something so powerful about being with a large group like that,” said Rachel. “We all have this common love for Christ that I would like for [other young people] to experience.”
“I think this would definitely encourage them to go to Mass and confession more often,” said Dominic.
Rebecca Boucher mentioned that the conference had something not only for young people, but for their parents and leaders as well.
“While not everyone is able to attend something like World Youth Day, this is an opportunity for all people,” she said. “I think it’s important that parents attend with their children, because it helps them to learn from these young people. The enthusiasm that the youth felt – it’s not just Mom and Dad telling you ‘oh, you have to go to Church’ – they were really able to experience this with people their own age.”
To find out more about LifeGuard, the pro-life group in charge of the event, please visit lifeguardlaplata.org.