I have just returned from a wonderful trip to New Orleans for the biennial National Conference on Catholic Youth Ministry (NCCYM) presented by the USA’s National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry (NFCYM). So right away, you know this blog is going to be about youth ministry because of the number of acronyms in the opening paragraph.
I went with my fellow OYYAM (Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry) staff members along with 4 YM (youth ministry) and YAM (young adult ministry) leaders from SAK (St. Andrew Kim parish…not their official acronym…but I just love saying it…LOL). Okay, enough with the acronyms for the sake of acronyms. Acronyms FTW!
I’ve been blessed to attend these conferences in the States for the past few years since 2004 (the conference for adults such as this year’s alternates with the conference for teens) but usually I’m flying solo or with one other staff member. Thus, I was very excited to be joined by Analyn, Faye and Gerard this time as we collectively rubbed shoulders with some of Catholic YM’s most prominent speakers, artists, and workshop leaders.
Indeed, it was a fabulous 4 days of faith, fun, food, and fellowship (wait…this sounds like a Spirit Day promo or something): we got to see old friends as well as make many new ones as we explored the theme of “Marching With the Saints.”
But our march was almost relegated to a crawl right off the start.
On Thursday afternoon, we made our way to the Exhibitor’s Hall to pick up our credentials (nametags) for the conference. Gene of APeX Ministries had them at his booth, as he had generously arranged to “sponsor” us for the conference. We excitedly approached the entrance and peered into the massive hall in the Convention Center (think the size of 2 football fields).
That’s when I saw her.
A tiny, serious woman stationed at the door. The only person standing between us and over 100 exhibitors. I quickly surmised that she was ensuring that everyone was wearing their nametags as their entry to the venue…similar to what we do at Spirit Day.
I don’t even know why I tried, but I casually tried to walk past her.
“STOP! You need your badge.”
“Our credentials are actually with…”
“Doesn’t matter. You can’t go in.”
Normally, at this point I would try and say something charming or at least disarming. Maybe explaining we were nice Canadians (something we were recognized for quite a bit during the conference…but I’ll save that for another blog) or appealing to my good looks. But I could tell that neither was going to work: this one was a non-negotiable.
I turned back to the rest of the staff after my futile entry attempt. Knowing Faye’s admirable penchant for sticking to our firm yet fair office policies especially with respect to registration for our events (case in point: one of our favourite lines in the office is “We’re sold out…even the Pope can’t get in”), the only thing I could say to her was:
“Wow Faye…this lady makes you look like a teddy bear!”
We erupted into laughter because my statement was both sad and true. Faye’s really good at what she does; sometimes I’m scared of her. But even Faye might have trouble holding a candle to this security woman.
Our laughter was interrupted by the appearance of Mark Hart (Vice-President of LIFE TEEN and long-time friend of our archdiocese), who, like us, wanted entry into the hall but not yet with his credentials. After some quick hugs and hellos, Mark was met with the same fate at the door: he wasn’t allowed in.
“But he’s tonight’s Keynote Speaker!” I said through my giggling.
As expected, the lady didn’t react to my comment as Mark stood waiting at the door. Meanwhile, Chris Padgett bellowed from the spotlight stage inside the hall: “Hey everybody, it’s Mark Hart! Come join us!”
Mark sheepishly pantomimed back that he couldn’t get in. It was an unintentional brilliant comedic moment.
Mark came back to our group and said “I think we can take her if we all split up…we must be faster than her.”
Our strategizing was cut short by Gene, who emerged from the hall with our credentials (turns out that Analyn had summoned him via text). A few seconds later, a LIFE TEEN staff member came out with Mark’s.
We greeted Gene and thanked him before donning our nametags. As we once again approached the door, I complimented the woman for doing a good job.
Her quick grin confirmed that she indeed knew how to smile.
So we proudly marched into the exhibit hall with a new spring in our step in eager anticipation of what the next few days held in store.