Archdiocese’s Hispanic Youth Conference returns in person; Chicago-based podcaster reminds teens how much they mean to God
DETROIT — God not only loves us; He is “hooked” on us.
The theme of the fifth Archdiocese of Detroit Hispanic Youth Conference on Aug. 14 at St. Juan Diego Parish in northwest Detroit reminded those gathered that they not only matter in God’s eyes, but are the complete center of His attention.
More than 125 young people gathered at the St. Christopher site of St. Juan Diego Parish — a welcome relief after last year’s pause on conferences — and hear keynote speaker David Bisono, a Chicago-based evangelist and host of the Hispanic Catholic podcast “Cafe con Cristo,” translated as “Coffee with Christ.”
“It’s been exciting; we finally get to have interactions with people again,” Antonio Guzman, Hispanic ministry coordinator for the Archdiocese of Detroit, told Detroit Catholic. “We were doing virtual stuff, but it’s not the same. Interaction with people is always good because you can connect better and see people’s gestures; it’s a different way of evangelizing.”
Conference-goers were excited to have the ability to walk around the parish, making use of a photo booth, socializing with youth from other parishes and hearing a hope-centered message about how Christ matters in the lives of today’s youth.
“The planning team met in the previous months to plan and discern what the youth needed for this conference,” Guzman said. “I know it was a hard year with COVID, and teens are facing problems with anxiety, depression. We’re hoping to bring some light to their lives and to target those areas we know they are having a hard time with.”
The conference opened with praise and worship music before Bisono took the mic to speak, diving into Genesis 1:1, the creation story, and how before God created the universe, He knew each and every person who would ever come into existence.
“He chose us and blessed us; why is this important?” Bisono asked. “God chose us before He created the world. He chose you before He created the skies; He chose you before He created the stars; He chose you before He created the oceans; He chose you before He created anything. Before He created anything, you were already His everything.”
Bisono related growing up in a strict but devout home in Brooklyn, where he said he would often get into trouble and feel lost. Often, he was told my those in authority that he was “a problem without a solution,” which reinforced his negative attitude, he said.
It wasn’t until he became older when he said he had his first authentic encounter with Christ, diving in Scripture, when He had a revelation.
“If you hear you’re a problem without a solution, then you become it,” Bisono said. “So why try to be anything different? But that changes when you hear the word of God. That is why I prayed for the youth of Detroit before coming here: ‘Lord, let them hear Your voice.’ We need younger people in the house, praying to God. If we have in every household in Detroit, young people seeing the face of God, hearing His voice, you imagine what will happen.
“But when I had my encounter, God told me, ‘David, I know your whole life they told you that you are a problem without a solution, but David, you are the solution to the problem,’” Bisono said. “You are the solution to the problem in Detroit; you are the solution to the problems in the Church, in this archdiocese, in your families, with your friends and in the world.”
Yuliana Bautista, a parishioner of the Basilica of Ste. Anne and an organizer of the conference, said there is always something to take away from the conference, which is why she has gone every year it’s been held.
“There is always room for everybody to learn, especially for those of us doing the planning and doing what we can to make sure everyone has a positive experience,” Bautista said. “To be here, helping with the organization, I feel like I’m giving back to the community. That I’m doing something productive and am investing in our future. The youth is the future of our church, and we want to make sure they know that. So five, six years from now, when I’m not here, we will have others step up and organize.”
Valerie Nuez of St. Juan Diego Parish said attending the conference, this being her third, has been a welcome change of pace after last year’s conference was virtual.
“I’m a really ‘in-person’ type of person,” Nuez said. “So this is really refreshing and I was really happy. Your faith isn’t as strong when you don’t have retreats. Coming to these really bring you together again with others and makes you feel closer.
“This year’s speaker has been really good as well,” Nuez added. “I feel comfortable and related with him. He’s been my favorite by far. ‘You are a solution to a problem;’ I really like that. I feel I really related to him, and I feel like a lot of other kids did.”