Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

More than 1,000 gather for Steubenville Youth Conference at GU

the Inland Register

(From the Aug. 20, 2009 edition of the Inland Register)

Some of the Spokane Diocese teens posed for this picture at the Bulldog statue by the McCarthey Center on the Gonzaga University Campus.

“The conference was totally amazing!” said Bob Falkner, Executive Director of Spiritus Ministries Northwest which brought “Steubenville Northwest” to Gonzaga University July 31-Aug. 2. The sweltering heat did not deter the enthusiasm of the teens from the Diocese of Spokane who stayed on campus Friday and Saturday nights along with 1,000-plus kids from all over the Northwest and Canada.

Bishop Skylstad offered a welcome to the participants the first evening.

Father John Amsberry, ordained in 1997 for the Archdiocese of Portland, Ore., shares his love of God via TV, radio, writing, retreats, conferences, and a web site, His latest book is titled Reaching Out to Joy. He is the pastor of St. Joseph the Worker in Portland, and surprised the audience with his ability to rap. Brittany Van Blaricom of Spokane called Father Amsberry’s homily “amazing! It was a different, new experience.”

Jacob Ecklund from St. Anthony Parish in Spokane liked Gene Monterastelli and Brad Farmer of APeX Ministries, who talked about Mary and the saints. “I appreciated how they explained why Mary and the saints are important and how we can become a saint,” said Jacob.

Brad and Gene take their faith seriously, but express it joyfully through juggling, humor, sketch comedy, storytelling and personal testimony.

Another speaker was Chris Stefanick, the Director of Youth, Young Adult, and Campus Ministry for the Archdiocese of Denver. He shares the love of the Father all around the country at retreats, rallies, and chastity assemblies. His book, Do I Have to Go?, answers questions about the Mass, the Eucharist, and spiritual life for teens. His web site address is

A popular speaker was Deacon Ralph Poyo of the Diocese of Raleigh, N.C., who is committed to help anyone experience the person of Christ through the Holy Spirit. He had a passionate style of communication that did not mince words. He can be reached at:

He often presents parish missions, retreats for youth and married couples, sacrament workshops, and trainings for youth ministers and catechists. Michael Bouvet, from Washington D.C., liked Deacon Ralph the best. “He connected with me when he shared his love of his family,” said Bouvet.

Stephen Hoerner called Deacon Poyo “very enthusiastic, passionate … I really liked his talk because it made you more enthusiastic about being a Catholic, and made you think.”

Ernie Hickman, after eight years of travel ministry, has settled with his wife in Houston, Texas. He speaks at numerous retreats and conferences throughout the country.

A convert to Catholicism, Joia Farmer (married to Brad of ApeX Ministries) shared her personal faith journey. Tiffany Van Blaricom from St. Joseph Parish, Spokane, in Spokane said called Joia “very open and wasn’t afraid to share her stories. She was inspirational.” She used her music and testimony to share her message of joy, peace, and freedom found in Christ.

Clartian Father Darrin Merlino set up Life Teen programs at his parishes. Father Darrin hosts a radio program on St. Joseph Radio and produces webcasts on YouTube on youth and spirituality. He has been in youth ministry for 30 years and loves bodysurfing and eating good Italian food. He also teaches religion at a Catholic high school in Southern California.

The Ike Ndolo Band was a popular part of the Steubenville NW Youth Conference. (IR photos courtesy of Joanne Bovey)

By far, the biggest crowd pleaser was the Ike Ndolo Band. Liz wrote at the band’s web site, “hey i was wondering if there was a way i could get ur cd.” Giulia said, “Hey I absolutely LOVED all the music at steubenville.” Alina Vera of Spokane said, “Ike advised us to stay rooted if we’re going forward spiritually. I liked that advice.”

Eastern Washington youth groups attending included St. Patrick, St. Francis Xavier, St. Peter, St. Charles, St. Joseph, and St. Anthony in Spokane; St. John Vianney and St. Mary, Spokane Valley; St. Joseph, Otis Orchards; as well as groups from Colville, Chewelah, and Walla Walla.

This was the second year Gonzaga University was the site for the Steubenville NW Youth Conference.

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