Virtual SHYCON Reminds Teens They Belong to God


By Tony DeGol

Michaela Etters, Macyn Behe, and Emma McCloskey are getting ready for a milestone in their Catholic faith journey.

The three members of Saint Therese of the Child Jesus Parish in Altoona are looking forward to next academic year when – as juniors – they will receive the Holy Spirit through the Sacrament of Confirmation.

“It’s pretty important that we learn about our faith before Confirmation,” stated Etters.

The trio, along with hundreds of other teenagers throughout the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, had the opportunity to not only learn about their faith, but come together as companions on the path to growing closer to the Lord and experiencing the joy of a relationship with Jesus Christ.

That opportunity came in the form of the annual Senior High Youth Conference, or SHYCON, on October 24. SHYCON, sponsored by the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown Office of Youth Ministry, is open to students throughout the eight-county diocese in grades 9-12.

Once again this year, the event was held virtually to avoid the health risks of bringing nearly a thousand young people together at one location. Many of the youth, however, came together in smaller parish-based groups to view the virtual gathering and safely celebrate community.

Etters, Behe, and McCloskey were among those from various Altoona parishes who attended SHYCON in the social hall at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Altoona.

“I like that we can learn about our faith not just with the people we’re with every week, but we get to see everyone else who is joining us in this process,” noted Behe.

“I really like seeing all these different parishes come together,” added McCloskey.

Their sentiments underscored the theme for SHYCON 2021: “Sons and Daughters We Belong to You.”

Keynote speaker Jesse Manibusan, a nationally-recognized composer, singer/songwriter, and storyteller, stressed to the virtual crowd that they are the Church, and they are not alone.

“Your gift and your life is irreplaceable, so keep being you and grow in Christ, grow in the faith,” encouraged Manibusan, who often used his guitar and music to engage the teens. “You are not just high school students, you are the beloved of Christ.”

The SHYCON experience included virtual adoration and a message from Bishop Mark.

“You belong to God who is more awesome than anyone, and God belongs to you because He offers Himself to you and to me – to all of us – especially through His Son, Jesus Christ, who comes to us through the Holy Eucharist, and He wants us to be like Him always in truth and in love,” the Bishop said.

[PhotoS: (Top Photo/left to right) Michaela Etters, Emma McCloskey, and Macyn Behe enjoy one of the games featured as part of virtual SHYCON. (First Inset) Live images from various groups participating in the youth event. (Second Inset) Participants from various Altoona parishes watch keynote presenter Jesse Manibuson.]