Teenager / Steubenville question (Long)


Hi everyone, I’m new here with a question. I’m not sure where to put it but Family seemed the best place.

ok, so over the weekend my 15 year old attended Steubenville East youth conference in MA. Prior to her attending we went to a meeting with the leaders from our parish and other parents. the kids were told that “adoration would be a powerful experience for them.” That people were slain in the spirit and speaking in tongues etc. These are all kids who participate in adoration every 1st Friday with youth group, so they’re no stranger to the process but my first thoughts - being fairly skeptical of the whole Charismatic movement was that they were setting these kids up for Mass Hysteria.

Anyway, she returns yesterday. Half of her was truly happy and excited over the weekend. She’s so big into music, that she loved that. Said the talks were ok, mass was nice, but that adoration was AMAZING. and then proceeded to tell us how scary it was. How kids were screaming. How kids were falling over. How she felt like she was going to throw up, how at one point one boy was screaming until the priest anointed him. How she didn’t want the priest to come near her with the host. She said she felt dizzy and like she was floating. Clearly she wasn’t elated in the spirit she was terrified. Of the 13 or so kids from our parish, most had something happen.

After 2+ hour adoration was over (which was like at 11:00pm after 94 degree heat all day) the parish got together to talk about what it was like and make sure the kids were all ok. One of the leaders said that the boy (from our parish) who was screaming must have been consumed by Satan and that Satan must have been there to stop the worship. And then, this is what really brings me here. The leaders told the kids that if they had trouble explaining this to their parents the leaders would talk to us (the parents). !!! That set off a million red flags. The leaders are simply parents from the parish. no formal religious training. The 3 woman are people I know and like. But I’m bothered by it all.

Now, like I said, I’m fairly skeptical of the whole Charismatic movement and I think as a good practicing Catholic it’s my job to be skeptical. I explained to my daughter that what she felt was all signs that she was going to faint. (having fainted many times when I was her age from the heat, I know what that feels like). My feeling, and what I told her, is that with thousands of kids all worshiping Jesus in Adoration, that did she really think that God would allow Satan to come among them? That God would allow Satan to bother or scare them? They were there for wonderful good reasons, in adoration of Jesus. Then I dug around last night on the internet, and the standard response that I could find to this question is always “satan was trying to interrupt the prayer service” Seems like the standard party line. I also can understand if the children were “slain in the spirit” as they think, why then were they being effected by Satan? Can’t be both in my mind. Either you’re slain in the spirit which I think would be a truly wonderful thing and elate you, not terrify you. Also, the leaders said you could tell they were slain in the spirit because no one got hurt. um…no kidding. When people faint they rarely get hurt because their body is limp. I also wonder, and I asked my daughter, why does it not happened when they’re all at adoration monthly? Or at mass? or praying the rosary? why do these “things” happen on in the context of a big charismatic meeting? and why would Jesus, our Jesus of the simple “Our Father” and of the “beatitudes”, our Jesus of a Resurrection that happened, not with huge pomp and flair and rock music and people falling over, but on a quiet morning, why would he make a big fuss now? It just didn’t add up. And when it did add up, it added to classic mass hysteria.
Of course, as soon as I started questioning what happened she got totally hysterical. I mean really hysterical. it was like the kids you see on the news talking about the cults they are in. To me, this isn’t what it should have been. It should have been something that elated her. not terrified her. Let alone anything else, it was really hot and humid here in MA all weekend and these kids were outside all day, with 4 hours of sleep the night before.

So, here are my questions:

  1. Steubenville - I guess I should have googled more before I let her go, they are charismatic, but are they “wrong”? Are they violating anything in our Church?

  2. should I have a discussion with the leaders and possibly bring in our parish priest?

  3. what documentation do I have to prove that this was wrong - and was it wrong? I know it doesn’t feel right. I prayed last night and every answer I got was that it wasn’t right. I kept getting more and more reasons in my head over and over why it wasn’t right. And I was led here to ask more I think.

So anyone have words of wisdom for me? I’m sorry this was so long. I’m not trying to debate the whole charismatic movement here. That’s not my intent. My intent is to make sure that my child is ok, that she is not afraid of God and that she is not being led down the wrong path.


The leaders, youth minister, etc. should have made it clear to the parents from the beginning that this was a Charismatic Catholic event.

Not every Catholic is comfortable with this form of spirituality.

I would advise you speak to your Priest, I am sure he can clear things up for all the youth and parents.


I’m sorry that experience happened like that.

Steubenville conferences use to be like that, but where I am , they have really not let things get out of hand…they downplay the drama and try to keep emotions from getting out of hand.

THe reality is though, some kids are involved in the occult, addictions and oppression in sins and things…they personally have satan oppressing them. The atmosphere at Steub leads to teens being so open to God that there is sometimes purging of those things, and therefore Satan is angry.

THe atmosphere of community worship and the speakers helping teens to surrender to God is why this particular event seems to have more expression.

HOwever, a lot of it is just teenage emotion. I work as a special minister at our Steub… and our job is to get the distracting kids out of the room, and to help the youth ministers keep their kids calm. Unfortunately it seems that not all conferences are working to keep things under control. Week one of ours had 45 min of silent adoration on Saturday night. Like, real silence. Kids were quiet. Although it might have went a little bit too long, it was nice.

I don’t understand why you say “red flag” when the chaperones offer to talk to the parents. To me, thats a good thing…they want to be very open with you about everything.


Thank you for your advice.

A lot is just teenage emotion. And it doesn’t sound like things were controlled. Thank you for your perspective. none of these children are kids who have addictions or are involved in the occult or things like that. They are all GOOD kids. Very good kids. Wonderful, moral, sensible kids. They are all the kinds of kids that any parent would be proud to have, and would be proud to have as friends for their child. They’re all from the “core” families in our parish and we all socialize outside of church as well. these are genuinely good, Godly kids.

I don’t understand why you say “red flag” when the chaperones offer to talk to the parents. To me, thats a good thing…they want to be very open with you about everything.

It was the way it was worded. The way my daughter said it was that the chaperones said that many parents wouldn’t believe them about what happened and that many parents would question it. And that if their parents had trouble understanding it then the kids should call the chaperones and that chaperones would “talk to” the parents. As a parent, this feels very wrong. That the chaperones were setting up the kids to expect confrontation from their parents. That the chpaerones were setting the kids up to believe that the chaperones had some “insider” knowledge about the whole situation. These are not people who are trained Religious people. What they know about it probably has come from Steubenville’s training. Hardly non-biased, IMO.


I am happy FEELINGS dont define Catholicism.
The charismatic movement is a recognized part of the Catholic Church. Many people, also friars and priests, have gotten the baptism in the Holy Spirit at Steubenville… former sceptics have been having expriences through the years there.

I have not experienced the baptism in the Holy Spirit (yet) but I have seen the fruit of the experience. The most vivid and powerfully anoited priests and pastors in my country are those who are in the charismatic movement (no membership needed I might add :wink: ). Having observed this for years I believe that its revival and a movement from the Holy Spirit that is really needed within the Church.

If you read the Gospels many times when demons were cast out of people and the sick got healed people got terrified. I have been afraid my self in the beginning of my Christian life… and before I met Christ personally I felt wholly outside when people spoke in tongues… I just thought it was plain weird.
Its notmal to feel unease about “uncontrollable” spiritual phenomena that we are not used to.
So, I see nothing wrong with your response but I also hope you consider that the supernatural always frighten people who are not used to it… and that many of the things that people today call mass hysteria were things that also took place at the hands of Jesus and the apostles…

Ps… I’d so love to go to Steubenville… :thumbsup:


When I see Steubenville, I almost automatically think “orthodox”. I wouldn’t question anything with that name attached to it. That said, I have to now admit that I’m nervous about my participation in Steubenville NW coming in a couple of weeks at Gonzaga University in Spokane, WA. I am the volunteer youth minister at our small parish and we have a small group going to this event. I received an extensive “manual” about what will happen and what to expect and NONE of it led me to believe that this was charismatic revival you described. (I’ll add here that I find nothing contrary to Catholic belief/teachings in the charismatic movement–I just personally don’t like it…as subjective as that may sound!) The manual DID describe that students may react in a variety of ways, to include lots of tears and emotion as they are filled with the Holy Spirit. It also said that where seeds of faith are planted, Satan will often step in and try to pluck the seeds away, but NOTHING I was provided would prepare me for what you describe!

Now I’m praying…:gopray2:



bingo. that best describes my feeling for it. Like I said, though, I’m not here to debate the validity of the charismatic movement. I would just like to know from a parenting perspective what others would do. And if what my child experienced / witnessed was in keeping with the church.

I wonder, if each version of Steubenville takes on the tone of the region and the kids present. If some do get overly emotional, does that then lead others to as well? Personally, how can you have properly adoration when kids are fainting and screaming? Adoration should be a quiet reflective time.


I went to the Steubenville conference in '96. It WAS very charismatic then. I actually confessed being uncomfortable with it to a priest at the convention. He said something like “yeah, I hear you. I feel the same way.”

During the adoration part of the event, I’d say that probably a about ten kids were carried out by organizers because they were being loud (they called it the “holy giggles”) or fainted. Other than those kids, many kids were crying. But most of the kids were quiet. I kinda felt deficient in a way for not getting all emotional…like, geez, all these other people are going crazy in the Spirit, and I don’t really “feel” anything. But I did pray. and enjoyed being in the presence of Jesus. And I did leave feeling called to ammend any sin in my life.

I do not think that anything the OP is describing (or anything I experienced for that matter) is against Church teaching. But I DO think that the way the organizers OP was talking about approached the matter was a little too rashly. They just fed into the emotionally charged- atmosphere by #1- automatically claiming it WAS some diabolical force at work, and #2- setting up the kids to believe that their parents just wouldn’t get what happened.

The way I would have handled it would have been to say:
"Look, something happened here tonight that was clearly scary. Was it something purely natural working against us like the heat, and the lack of rest? Was it a spiritual force of darkness trying to derail us? Its really hard to say. Let’s talk to a priest about it more tomorrow. For tonight, let’s just all focus on the fact that Jesus really WAS truly present to us tonight, just like he always is in the Blessed Sacrament. That we know for sure. If you are ever scared of ANYTHING you can ask Him to be with you, and he will. "

That way at least the focus would have remained on Christ. I know I personally would have been really distracted as a teen if someone told me “Satan has been messing with our group” and “your parents won’t believe you.”


yes yes yes yes !! You GET what I was trying to say. I like the approach you would have used too. I think your words are a good jumping off point for the DH and I to discuss this more with our daughter. I don’t want to fully discredit it, even though we are much more traditional in our family, but I also don’t want her to be fooled by an experience that may have not been all she thought it was.


I’m trying to put myself in your shoes here. My daughter is 18 and is not going to attend Steubenville NW with me. My middle son is 16 and will be working on harvest that weekend, so he is not going either. But, I’m trying to imagine how they would react to what you describe and what I would do in the event they reacted similarly to your daughter.
Both of my teens are used to adoration also and are “good” kids. If they witnessed this kind of pouring out of the Holy Spirit, I’m pretty sure they would run as fast as they could the other direction.
To answer your first question above, I think we have agreed that there is nothing “wrong” with Steubenville or the charismatic movement.
As for number two, I think it would be helpful to get more information from the adults who attended. Their perspective might be a lot different from your daughter’s. I can’t imagine ANYONE jumping to the conclusion that the screaming boy was possessed in some way by Satan. Not saying that your daughter made that up, but I would just ask the other adults what happened and if it matches, I’d ask some follow up questions, like “Why do you think that?” and/or “Why did you say that?” I can’t imagine how the screaming boy felt hearing that he was gripped by Satan! :eek: Then, I would just discuss with the adults the concerns you have about your daughter’s overall experience and express your disappointment that she came home with a lot of anxiety about the weekend and see where that leads you. It sounds as if other teens may have been taken aback as well…and so the youth minister will need to follow up to help the teens process everything. As the youth minister, I would say something like “The Holy Spirit moves very powerfully in our lives every day, but we are sometimes unaware due to the many distractions we face. When we are in a situation that allows us to be more fully aware of the Holy Spirit’s presence…such as during a retreat weekend…we can be unprepared for the reactions of others and ourselves. The way you and others reacted might have been surprising and unexpected. Be confident in God’s love and concern for you and be open to the way that the Holy Spirit chooses to work in your life. Some of you may have had a profound experience and some may have “felt” nothing. Regardless, the Holy Spirit was there for everyone. Your experience should not have been frightening and I apologize if anything said by adult leaders left you feeling that way.” I know that I misspeak from time to time and I would give the adult leaders the benefit of the doubt. Hopefully, once they are aware that this was very disturbing for your daugther, someone will step up to the plate and clarify.

Regarding number three, I don’t think it was “wrong”, but I can understand your misgivings and distress. The last thing we want to go haywire in our kids’ lives is a religious retreat! I think you did a wonderful job of explaining things to your daughter. Hopefully, you will get some of the other adults to sew this thing up.



Thank you Kathy for such kind and calm words. :slight_smile:


So, basically the fault is not Steubenville, its the leaders and chaperones.

Also, everybody’s kid is a “good kid”. I don’t know those kids, I’m not claiming I know them, however, I had a teen boy who was basically a “good” kid, who was in a family of 10…serious Catholic solid family. He confessed to me that he had an addiction to porn. Even good kids get caught up in stuff.


Yes, good point. I’ll add…even good adults get caught up in stuff. :frowning:



No, I am not faulting the Steubenville system, I thought I was pretty clear on that. Steubenville can have their meetings and such, I don’t have to allow my child to participate in them. I’m only trying to clarify if 1) it’s appropriate and 2) if the chaperones know what they’re talking about.

And yes, there are actually good kids out there. Believe it or not. It’s sad that you don’t think they exist. Believe me when I say, these kids ARE good kids.


I never said they don’t exist. Don’t put words in my mouth. I know they exist.
I’ve been working with teens for over 12 years. I’ve seen the whole wide range of them.

But I’m saying…even good kids have some issues that adults don’t know about. This kid’s family did NOT know anything about it. It just might be possible that you dont’ know about OTHER people’s kids too.


When I went to Steubenville East in 2002 I got into the “spirit” while I was there, but after it was all over I felt really ashamed of myself. I wonder why that is.


You might wanna write Spirit with a capital S… if you are talking about the Holy Spirit.
Shame can come from a variety of sources and be both good and bad. It can be because the Spirit exposes inner illnesses and/or sins… it can be due to a loss of control in some areas, sudden feelings of weakness or a release of something painful you have been holding on to…
Shame can be caused by the devil when he wants to disturb something good that is happening in a soul.
Or shame can be caused by sin … maybe because you have been unfaithful to God before, during or after the event…

there is no telling…


This is the kicker for me in the Charismatic movement. I saw this thread after psoting in another forum about Steubenville, what a coincidence lol.

I see the Charismatic movement as self-centered. Christ and the Church gave us the holy mass. He gave us adoration of the holy Eucharist. The charismatic celebrations remind me too much of cults and leave me with a self-centered feeling, utterly contradictory to Catholicism. I’m sure I will be corrected by somebody here :shrug:


I…LOVE…STEUBY EAST! Sorry had to put that in. I went four years in a row, and it was incredible every time. Yes, adoration CAN be a scary event for people who aren’t prepared for it, but if you are adequately prepared for it, then it is very moving and powerful. I am normally not the type to go for that kind of stuff, but it’s really a good experience. (Or at least, I think it is)


Or maybe because I was (and still am) very self-conscious and yet I was jumping up and down and screaming and doing the hand motions to Protestant rock music. I was around 300 pounds back then and I did everything I could to not draw attention to myself and my fatness, except when I was there.

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