When Did the Spirit First Come Alive?
A look at the history of the Spirit Alive Youth Conference
God has the tendency to choose small people to do great things. Look at St. Therese of Lisieux who (with her simple book “The Story of a Soul”) stands beside great theologians such as Thomas Aquinas, Augustine of Hippo, and Catherine of Siena as a Doctor of the Church. God draws us out of our littleness – from our sinfulness, our simplicity, our position in life – and sees not what we are but what we can do and what we can become when strengthened with the power of His grace.
This was the reality for a young sophomore in high school just beginning to take a hold of her faith. The Steubenville Youth Conference was a bit too far, too pricey, and already full and so Maria was signed up by her mother to attend Youth 2000 in Owensboro, Kentucky in March of 2012.
For teens lucky enough to attend their first youth conference, the atmosphere can be life-changing – the talks, the enthusiasm of the participants, the upbeat music, and the community of youth on fire for God gathering around Christ present in the Eucharist. While wrapped in worship in front of the Eucharist, Maria felt a call to start a similar conference in St. Louis.
Easy enough. Except that life happens and when Maria got home, God’s demand was in the back of her mind, completely forgotten. Finally, about a month later, she mentioned casually to her parents, “Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you. God wants us to start a youth conference.”
As a naïve sophomore, the work involved in starting a conference from scratch seemed like no big deal. Hoping to dodge such a huge undertaking, her parents asked questions like, “Who will be the speakers? Who will do the music? How will we advertise? How will we pay for it? How will we feed so many kids?” But God answered every question and in just two months Spirit Alive was born.
Despite many anxieties and questions on the part of the planners as the conference approached, Spirit Alive was privileged to host speaker and singer Greg Walton and drummer musician Bill Bleistine as well as impact around 65 local teens. The feedback was inspiring. Teens said, “Spirit Alive provides an atmosphere of joy and worship that is so invigorating!! It’s such a beautiful break from the everyday where you can focus on what is truly important.” Another said, “This conference has guided me through what I believe are the most vulnerable years in a Catholic’s life.”
Thanks to continued positive feedback, the numbers kept growing. But numbers aren’t everything and if Spirit Alive can make a difference in just one young person’s life, it would all be worth it.
The Spirit Alive theme in 2012 started it all. But different speakers, talks, and themes continue to impact teens in new ways. Loyal attendees will remember ‘Ignorance is not bliss’ (2013), ‘Hello my name is’ (2014), ‘Army of God’ (2015), ‘The Ultimate Race’ (2016), ‘Thrive’ (2017), and this year’s theme ‘Avenger of the Righteous.’
Part of the success of the conference is due to the enthusiasm of volunteers. From preparing food, setting up carpet and tables, reaching out to donors, and contacting speakers, men and women who have volunteered their time, treasure, and prayers can never be thanked enough. Speakers, musicians, and emcees such as Greg Walton, Bill Bleistine, Katie Prejean, Jaimie Roberts, Caleb Rudin, Evan Glowzinski, Rusty Hill, Brad Baumgarten, and Deacon Tony Ritter have also contributed their talents over the years.
St. Therese of Lisieux wrote, “God would never inspire me with desires which cannot be realized; so in spite of my littleness, I can hope to be a saint.” The Holy Spirit started this conference by speaking to a young sophomore back in 2012. The Spirit Alive Youth Conference will continue to be obedient to that same Spirit to guide it for as long as there are still young people willing to answer the call.
If this article has inspired you to volunteer or attend, please click here to register.
Thank you for your continued prayers and support. Spirit Alive 2018 ‘Avenger of the Righteous’ here we come! #SpiritAlive2018
– Elizabeth Citrowske