by Meghan Ascher
Special to The Leaven
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — For the fifth time since 2016, over 20 archdiocesan parishes will convene at the Rural Catholic Youth Conference (RCYC) to “bring the outstanding experience of Steubenville or NCYC to a more relaxed and smaller scale. It’s like a big conference, but with better food,” said Angie Bittner with a smile, the rural youth ministry outreach coordinator for the archdiocese.
RCYC will be a weekend experience for high school-aged students at Prairie Star Ranch in Williamsburg with keynote speakers including Joel Stepanik, an international speaker and author; Sister M. Karolyn, FSGM; and Joe Rziha.
In addition to the speakers, there will be lip-syncing battles, games and free time, a large banquet, a signature prayer painting performance by artist Mike Debus, faith sharing in both large and small group settings, and much more.
The theme this year is: “Come to the Table,” focusing on the archdiocesan theme of Eucharistic Amazement.
Rziha, one of the keynote speakers, is currently a senior at Benedictine College in Atchison studying theology. He has been involved with RCYC since he was in high school.
“It was unique for me to see a Catholic community outside my hometown in Atchison,” said Rziha when asked about his experience as a high schooler. “The rural youth ministry has the blessing of uniting people from across different rural communities — whether its towns, Topeka or farm communities. Meeting those people offered me a more well-rounded experience than if I had just stayed in my own small town.”
Rziha made lasting friends through his participation in RCYC and even began to take part in the Northeast Kansas Rural Youth Council (NEKRYC), the team of high school leaders who help plan and run hospitality for RCYC. The NEKRYC students play a big role in RCYC, explained Bittner, and many alumni come back to help with the weekend.
Rziha has been a speaker at the last three conferences, witnessing to the Lord’s movement in his life and sharing his passionate love for the Eucharist.
“This year, I want to focus on the movement of coming to the banquet, the feast. It is certainly the Eucharist, coming to the table of Christ within each one of us,” he said.
In a world that seems so busy for high schoolers, Bittner said, the chance to gather away from school or home for this faith event is critical.
“It’s hard to replace an immersion event where you are too far away to get sidetracked halfway through to go to a sports game, and you can really just ‘be’ there,” Bittner added. “The transformations of what the Lord does when people give their time is one of the most powerful aspects of this event.”
“The greatest adventures start with a leap of faith that doesn’t seem like it will go anywhere,” he said. “RCYC might be the thing you remember the most about this year.”
The event hosts 20 parishes — some of those bringing 25 or more students and some bringing maybe only one or two.
“It doesn’t matter how many come from your parish,” said Bittner. “All feel welcome and a part of the group by the end.”
The event will be held on March 25-26 and the cost is $130, which includes the full conference package, meals and lodging. To register, go to the archdiocesan website at: archkck.org/rural/events.