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Florida Youth Flock to Ave Maria's Most Successful Youth Conference Ever

ablaze2-300The annual "Ablaze" youth conference at Ave Maria University certainly caught fire this year.

At least 750 people – 700 youths plus chaperones and other personnel – came to Ave Maria from about 40 parishes throughout Florida.

"As a youth leader it was great to watch as the Lord's light shined on our teens," said Zachary Gibbons, a youth leader at St. John the Evangelist Church in Naples. Right, some of those from St. John the Evangelist who attended.

This year's attendance was about 70 percent higher than any of the previous seven conferences, which organizers said was due to better promotion, much more enthusiastic word-of-mouth and the support of Diocese of Venice Bishop Frank Dewane who sent a letter to youth groups at Florida parishes inviting them to Ave Maria.

"It was great to see so many youths from all over Florida," said Brian Scanlan, AMU's associate vice president who has responsibility for conferences. One of his strongest memories of the conference was Saturday afternoon when 11 priests from around the diocese of Venice heard confessions from more than 400 youths.

Tablaze1-250he conference marked a return to Ave Maria for Father Richard Pagano, a graduate of AMU who led much of the religious aspects of the conference. He brought a busload of more than 50 teens and seminarians from his parish, Elizabeth Ann Seton in Palm Coast, FL. Left, Fr. Pagano with Mr. Scanlan.

Success often breeds success, and Mr. Scanlan said he and others at AMU are already working on plans for the 2016 conference. Below, the contingent form St. Patrick's in Tampa.

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