Robert Feduccia, aptly and affectionately named “conference guru,” cheerfully warns, “Be ready to have your parish invigorated!” Youth return to their parishes from St. Meinrad Archabbey’s One Bread One Cup conference “better catechized, ministerially trained, and spiritually eager than 90 percent of adults.”
This five-day summer liturgical leadership conference for high school youth groups equips teenagers with a comprehensive capacity to engage in parish life, particularly to confidently lead different aspects of the liturgy. The youth each attend a specific Liturgical Formation Session every day of the conference for instruction and training. These sessions include: Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion, Prayer in the Life of the Body of Christ, MC/Server/Sacristan, Liturgical Arts, Chant, Cantor Development, Instrumental Music, Proclamation of the Word, Preaching the Liturgy of the Hours, and Stewardship and Hospitality. The conference ends with a liturgy coordinated by the participants, who take increasing responsibility as the week progresses.
One Bread One Cup draws more people to St. Meinrad Archabbey than any other individual program. The program conducts most of its outreach at NCYC, the National Catholic Youth Conference, so St. Meinrad hosts groups from as far southwest as Tucson, Arizona, and as far north as the Diocese of Superior in Wisconsin.
Robert Feduccia earned the title of “conference guru” because he was instrumental in establishing OBOC and has remained fairly involved through the years. In the late 1990s, the religion division of Lilly Endowment, Inc. reached out to St. Meinrad when Feduccia was directing the youth leadership conference at the monastery. The division wanted to foster Christian vocations and support the next generation of theologians, so it offered various schools of theology $30,000 to invest in a proposal for a program through which they would engage youth. Feduccia and his team wanted to address the national question of the time in youth ministry: the role of youth in the liturgy. They saw that the spiritual needs of youth are met in the Catholic tradition through word, sacrament and mission, but young people were unaware of this fulfillment. Thus, One Bread One Cup was formed, and the program launched in 2000 with a $1.2 million grant it received from the Lilly Endowment.
OBOC Conference Director Tammy Becht explained that OBOC meets young people’s need for stability. While at St. Meinrad, participants find ways they can develop their gifts and enter more fully into the life of the Church. She emphasized the responsibility of parishes to create space for youth; many groups return home with enthusiasm and are ready to get involved, but minister schedules aren’t always updated or varied. Youth returning from OBOC need to be “seen, encouraged, and accompanied” by the parish at large. Then, OBOC isn’t a one-time high. Then, it functions as it should, as an understanding of the liturgy that leads to a more authentic and stable connection with Christ. At OBOC, teenagers are “invited, trusted, and empowered to serve.”
Catholic speaker and author Katie Prejean McGrady noted that the conference offers a distinctive “slow burn.” Her sister Laura is now pursuing her doctorate in canon law, and she credits this to her parents’ support and the impact of OBOC, which she attended twice. McGrady, who is also involved in Notre Dame Vision and Steubenville conferences, said, “nothing else is like it,” which goes to show the “beauty of the Church.” Vision is more spiritually focused, Steubenville shows “the breadth and depth of the Church,” and OBOC “deliberately turns the cogs of minds and hearts” to serve. The atmosphere of St. Meinrad also lends a particularly unique quality to the conference.
I visited on Day 4 of a recent session, a long but rewarding day of the conference. The group began at 8:30 a.m. with Morning Prayer, listened to McGrady’s presentation on mission, played ultimate frisbee, met in their Liturgical Formation Sessions, celebrated Mass and prayed Vespers, engaged with a discipleship panel, enjoyed a variety show and slideshow, and closed the night with a Holy Hour and small group reflections, finishing the day around 11:30 p.m.
One participant, Daniel, said his favorite part was “getting up at 5:30 for Morning Prayer” with the monks of St. Meinrad. This was an optional activity for the participants, and Daniel’s group from Georgia decided to go together one morning. He said initially, he wasn’t excited to wake up so early, but making that commitment and participating in that prayer ended up being his favorite experience. Holiness never goes out of style, and the Benedictine monks’ way of life is still attractive to young people today.
One Bread One Cup explores the riches of our Catholic tradition, which truly does fulfill the desires of young people today and in every age. You can invigorate your parish community and find more information at www.saintmeinrad.edu/youth/ summer-conferences/.