After her daughter attended a Steubenville Youth Conference in 2022, April Veo decided she would volunteer as a chaperone for the 2023 conference.
“I honestly haven’t had much experience with youth ministry,” April says. “I was thrilled to attend Steubenville this summer as a chaperone. My daughter, Ella, went for the first time last year and wanted so badly for me to come and experience it with her. It made me so happy to be there with her this year and to experience it alongside her.”
April was raised in the Catholic faith right here in Rolla at St. Patrick, where she and her husband, Tom, attend with their three children — Ella, Noah, and Addie. Ella attended St. Patrick School through eighth grade, and the two younger children currently attend the school. Tom converted to Catholicism after participating in the RCIA process when Ella was a baby.
“We love our church family,” April says. “It is such a special place to us.”
The Steubenville Youth Conference is a multi-day retreat at which student participants and chaperones gather for prayer, fellowship, reception of the sacraments, and Eucharistic Adoration. It takes place across over a dozen locations throughout the United States and Canada. They also host retreats for young adults and clergy.
When embarking on the retreat, April wasn’t sure what to expect and simply made it a point to take it all in. As she witnessed the youth — including her daughter and friends — experience the retreat, April was moved by their zeal for the Lord.
“There were thousands of them worshiping, singing, and praying to our Lord, and it was one of the most spiritual experiences I’ve ever had the pleasure of witnessing,” she says. “It was all so deeply connecting, being with so many others that were there for the same purpose of deepening their faith and worshiping God.”
April especially enjoyed the opportunity to gather in small groups to hear the youth share their struggles, experiences, and faith stories. She also enjoyed bringing the students to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation. While there were many moments she relished, the one that stands out most was Eucharistic Adoration on the Saturday evening.
“I had heard that it was a long evening, kneeling for several hours,” she says. “But all that went away when the time came. I could not contain my emotions when the monstrance came my way. I watched all around me as they were reaching for it, for Him — most with tears streaming down their faces — and felt simultaneously peaceful and on fire for God all at once. There is absolutely nothing like it.”
Experiencing the Steubenville Youth Conference helped April grow in her faith and desire to give of her talents to the Lord and His Church. She encourages anyone considering it to attend a conference.
“I will definitely say that my faith was deepened through my experience at Steubenville,” April says. “Admittedly, it is easy to have an experience like that — and leave it behind after the weekend is over. I struggle with that sometimes. But, it has helped me find deeper meaning in the Mass and each component of it. It’s amazing how we go through Mass as Catholics, but many times without knowing why. Remembering the ‘why’ and connecting to that gives deeper meaning to the Mass for me.”