Over 1,000 attend Ascend 2021 conference

Chris Padgett entertained and evangelized at Ascend 2021 Saturday, Nov. 6, at Kapaun Mt. Carmel High School in Wichita. (Advance photo)

Over 1,000 young teens and their parents were entertained, inspired, and evangelized Saturday, Nov. 6, at Ascend 2021 in the Kapaun Mt. Carmel High School gym in Wichita.
David Purcell, the diocesan program coordinator for Youth, Young Adult, and College Ministry, said he was impressed by the standing-room-only turnout.

“It was fantastic,” he said after the event. “There was more turnout than expected and from what I heard everyone enjoyed it. I’ve heard good things from people.”

Those attending came from 44 parishes, Purcell said. “It really connected the parishes in the diocese and allowed the students to see their bishop and praise God.”

The youth attending, ages 12 to 14, are at a critical time in their spiritual lives, he said, because it is in that time frame many decided whether to remain in their faith or to leave. “What we’re trying to do is bridge the gap and give a positive, tangible experience as kids journey from middle school to high school and ultimately to college and that lifelong mission.”

Anthony Keiser, director of the Office of Faith Formation, said several young people attending the conference shared that they went to confession after years of avoiding the sacrament.

“Others truly enjoyed being there with the bishop in adoration, and others finally recognized they are loved by Jesus Christ and can have joy in their faith,” he said, adding that it was a blessing that for many this was a family event with one or both parents experiencing it together.

“I echo Bishop Kemme in being so grateful that so many parishes made this experience available to their middle schoolers and their families,” Keiser said.

Popple, the acoustic duo of Dan Harms and Kyle Heimann opened the event, provided music, and entertained throughout the day. Popple is based in Virginia. Chris Padgett, a convert, a musician, and a theologian, entertained the crowd with humorous stories about himself in addition to evangelizing about the faith. He is from Constantia, New York, near Syracuse.

After lunch and games, Dan Harm talked about confirmation, which was followed by music from Oklahoma-based Still Morning, a foursome made up of Julia Lopez, Austin Satrio, Megan Todd, and Blake Flynn.

Bishop Carl A. Kemme then led adoration at the event, talked to those attending, and gave out Freddy’s Frozen Custard sandwiches. The event closed with more music from Popple and Chris Padgett.

“My prayer going forward,” Purcell said, “is that the Holy Spirit invigorates these kids so they may encounter God and draw closer to him. That’s my mission and my work and I am happy to be a part of it.”

Many non-Catholics also took part in the event, Purcell said.