Meal Packing and Inspirational Speaker Among the Highlights of SHYCON 2019


By Tony DeGol

John Angotti told hundreds of teens what most adults already know: life is not always easy.

“At some point in your life, you’re going to have to ask ‘what is Truth?,’” he stated while tapping the keys of his piano. “We have occupations, but, my friends, a vocation is given to us to love and serve the Lord and love and serve each other. For what else could you be in existence for?”

Angotti, a missionary who travels around the world providing inspirational music and witness talks, was the keynote speaker at the annual Senior High Youth Conference, or SHYCON, held on October 20 at Saint Francis University in Loretto.

The gathering of high school students from throughout Altoona-Johnstown is always the largest youth event of the year. It is sponsored by the diocese’s Office of Youth Ministiry.

The theme for SHYCON 2019 was “Well Done My Good and Faithful Servant,” which, according to Youth Ministry Coordinator Francine Swope, should prompt the young people to truly reflect on whether or not they are living as servants of God

“If not, you have a chance to change your life and start doing the things you should be doing,” she added.

In the spirit of service, another highlight of the day was the packing of thousands of meals for the Rise Against Hunger organization.

Students prepared rice and other items to feed people around the world.

Started a few years, the meal packaging continues to be wildly popular with the kids.

“It’s a great feeling,” said Devyn DeGennaro, a member of Saint Mark Parish in Altoona. “You know you’re helping people who really need it because we know how fortunate all of us are here compared to the other people we’re doing it for who have close to nothing.”

Tommy Urbain loved Angotti’s presentations, but he, too, walked away with great satisfaction after packing rice.

“I like knowing we’re making an impact on everyone else’s lives,” added the parishioner of Saint Demetrius in Gallitzin.

Bishop Mark rolled up his sleeves and joined the youth as they packaged the meals. He was impressed by their commitment.

“It’s amazing – I saw smiles on the faces of everyone working at the tables,” he observed. “The students, I can tell, really cared that this is going to help some real person somewhere.”

Later, the Bishop celebrated Mass for the group and talked about prayer during his homily. So often, young people feel that they do not know what to say to God or if He’s listening.

Prayer, Bishop Mark assured, is simply a conversation with the Lord.

“Every time you read the words on the pages of the Bible, that’s God talking to you,” he reminded. “Just open up your Bible and listen to what He has to say.”

[Top photo: Bishop Mark joins students as they pack meals for Rise Against Hunger.]

[First inset photo: An overview of the hundreds of high school students on hand for SHYCON 2019.]

[Second inset photo: The group from Holy Rosary and Saint Mark parishes in Altoona poses with the Bishop.]