Case Study: Maureen Gross, NCYC
Planner: Maureen Gross, Director of Meetings and Events, National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry
Event: The National Catholic Youth Conference drew 21,000 youth to Indianapolis last November. “We talk about it as three days of catechism or teaching, prayer and worship, recreation and service,” says Gross. “We try and engage people in multiple ways in multiple levels, strengthening their Catholic identities and understanding of our Catholic faith.” The organizers found the city and host diocese such a good fit, they signed up to bring the conference back for the 2013 biennial event before the 2011 event took place.
Location: NCYC has very specific needs in a host city: covered stadium with minimum seating of 20,000 people; a convention center with 750,000 square feet of exhibit space within walking distance, if not connected to, the stadium; 5,500 quad-occupancy hotel rooms within 20-30 minutes of the center; and a diocese willing and equipped to host a group of that size. “It’s not about being in an exciting destination—not to say Indy isn’t exciting—but it’s about driveability. When attendees can bus or drive in cars and vans, we see attendance increase,” Gross says.
Return Trip: Returning to Indianapolis in 2013 has its advantages. “A lot of adults and group leaders have been once before, so for them, it will eliminate the first-time jitters; they’ll know the layout, where the restrooms are,” Gross says. It also allows the planning team to improve problems faced during the previous event.
Trade Show: The event’s trade show, called Thematic Park, was designed to be an interactive venue with a central service area to puts the event’s theme, “Called to Glory,” into action. “It showed how to take [lessons] home and replicate them at the local level,” Gross says. In the past, attendees built a Habitat for Humanity house in the exhibit hall. At this event, students could participate in sports, walk through a disability simulation, sculpt clay at the Creative Corner, or sit at a coffeehouse and listen to Catholic musicians. “It connected to what was happening in our general session in Lucas Oil,” Gross says. “It was always meant to be interactive, and never meant to be exhibit booths in a 10×10 line.”
Face-to-Face: “We draw young people from across the country, and we hear, most poignantly, that they’re the only Catholic in their community,” she says. “They come and are able to see they’re not the only Catholic. [They are] one of tens of thousands, who come together and gather once every other year, who are making the tough decision and living counter-culturally.”
Security: In response to the recent child abuse scandal in the Catholic Church, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops developed a charter to protect young people that all Catholic dioceses in the country have to be in general alignment with. It includes background checks, training to recognize and predict signs of abuse, and steps needed to protect against any such behavior. NCYC did background checks on every speaker and performer who took the stage. “We’re still working on it,” Gross says. “Is it overkill or are we striking the right balance? It’s a major expense—not that finances make the decision—but we didn’t used to budget for this, but now we do.”
| IN GROSS’ WORDS |
When I’m on-site at an event:
I can’t live without my co-workers, including our very dedicated vendor partners. Events don’t happen because of one person. Outside of work, my husband and children. They make everything worthwhile.
I communicate using a radio, texting, and, occasionally, email. We also hold daily face-to-face briefings for our highest level group leaders.
I am most inspired by the young people who attend our youth conference and the adults who bring them.
I most miss my children. (I’m blessed that my husband is a member of our organization and so he is usually present at most of our events.)
I learn the most from doing. I’m a hands-on learner.
Gross tells us why the success of NCYC is about more than a job in A Closer Look.