2014 Region 10 Catholic Youth Conference
By Anamaría Scaperlanda Biddick
Leah Darrow, a former contestant on America’s Next Top Model and graduate of Saint James Catholic School in Oklahoma City, spoke Nov. 22 at the Region 10 Catholic Youth Conference. The conference, for high school students from Oklahoma, Arkansas and Texas took place at the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City.
Darrow emphasized God’s deep and abiding love for each of us. She shared her story of choosing “imitation love” and coming home to the real love of God.
Karen Gonzalez from Immaculate Conception parish in Perryton, Texas, said she found the talk inspiring, especially, “when she said we should look for happiness from Jesus, not the world.”
“He wants to love you, not just use you to be good, or to love other people, but to love you,” Darrow told the audience.
“When I moved to St. Louis, I wanted to be accepted. I thought to be accepted, I needed a boyfriend. I went and picked one out. I got a boyfriend, like I was picking out shoes,” she said, to the laughter of the attendees.
She continued to choose “imitation love” for the next 10 years, she said, until she had a moment in a New York City modeling shoot where she realized that she had been given so much, but was giving nothing back to God. She called her dad and asked him to bring her home. He drove her across the country and took her to confession because, he said, “The Catholic Church is home.”
Norma Salas, an adult volunteer from Our Lady of Guadalupe parish in Alice, Texas, said, “Her statement was very true: home is God.”
After that, Darrow returned home with her father and began living for God, who gave her real love, including love through the man who is now her husband, and through their two children created from that love.
Her talk was a high point of the conference for Noah Staudt who attends St. Mary in Guthrie and is a sophomore at Mount Saint Mary High School in Oklahoma City.
“The conference has been good,” he said. “I really liked it. A highlight for me was Leah Darrow when she talked about love.”
His father, Joe Staudt, an adult volunteer, also appreciated Darrow’s talk along with keynote speaker Ben Barresi from the night before.
“Both of the keynote speakers were very powerful. They handled very tough topics head-on, and you don’t see that too often,” he said.
Mayra Castillo from Our Lady of Guadalupe in Alice, Texas, part of the Diocese of Corpus Christi, found Darrow’s talk encouraging.
“It’s really inspiring because it’s true; everyone pressures you, but it’s better to have true friends and to have God in your life.”
Caleb Sanderson, also from Saint Mary in Guthrie, benefited from the conference and particularly appreciated the singing.
“The songs (were a highlight) because they draw us closer together when we sing in harmony and praise the Lord,” he said.
Vince Carrasco, a recent graduate of Saint Gregory’s University, who is in discernment at the Franciscan Capuchin house in Denver, expressed the importance of such conferences for young people.
“It’s a good way to get students fired up and more active,” he said. “The first step is always going to these things – they stay with you. They are a stepping stone and a neat experience.”
Anamaría Scaperlanda Biddick is a freelance writer for the Sooner Catholic.