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First ‘XCEED’ Conference held at Xavier in Cedar Rapids

Matt Fradd speaks on pornography, activities for students, parents

By Katie Mills Giorgio
Witness Correspondent

CEDAR RAPIDS — Students at Xavier High School in Cedar Rapids were invited to encounter God in new ways at a new all-school conference at the end of September.

Xavier Catholic Extraordinary Encoun­ter Day, or XCEED, was a day-long event held on Sept. 26, which provided all Xavier ninth- through 12th-graders with the opportunity to hear from a variety of presenters on topics pertinent to today’s Catholic teens.

“We chose the name XCEED because our goal was to provide multiple ways for those who attended to encounter Christ,” said Jody Esker, Xavier High School campus minister.

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The event began with a keynote address by internationally renowned speaker Matt Fradd who spoke to students about pornography. His talks, which he’s delivered to thousands of people over the past seven years, weave ethical and Catholic teachings into the science surrounding the negative effects of exposure to pornography. “I fell into speaking about this accidentally,” he said. “This is something I am very passionate about, and no one was talking about it. No one wanted to talk about this. Today, these kinds of talks are all I do.”

He said that pornography and sexting are huge issues facing teens today. “Most parents are in denial about all of this,” Fradd said. “We Catholic parents bury our heads in the sand and say my kids wouldn’t do that, or I trust my kids. But what we are doing is placing too much trust in the internet. If we love our kids and want the best for them then we need to educate ourselves about the destructive nature of porn. And we have to give our children an internal filter for an unfiltered world.”

Fradd talked frankly with the students — combating seven myths of pornography — leaving them with much to consider.

“Matt Fradd was chosen because he brings a beautiful message about the unity of body and soul and how we encounter God; that the human person is made for more than this world,” Esker said. “We felt the topic of pornography is not talked about openly very often and yet is a reality in the world.”

After Fradd’s keynote, students spent a large portion of their day in “impact” sessions that allowed them to explore topics related to the Catholic faith presented by faculty, staff, alumni and other community partners. “The campus ministry team always is searching for ways to reach the students, enliven their faith and show them the face of Jesus,” said Esker, noting that students had 19 different sessions to choose from. “We decided that providing a day with lots of choices based around faith would be a great way to reach a wide variety of students. And since we are all beautifully unique and each one of us encounters Christ in a different way, having a variety of things to experience has been a way to reach a large audience.”

The planning team at Xavier also decided to open up the conference to parent participation. Parents heard from Fradd who shared practical ideas for keeping their teens safe online, as well as from Cedar Rapids Police Officer Charity Hansel who offered insights from a law enforcement perspective and Xavier President Tom Keating who shared his experiences parenting the Catholic teen.

Parent Shari O’Rourke, who has a freshman daughter and senior daughter at Xavier, was pleased to be able to spend the day at the conference. “The biggest reason I am here is that I like to hear what my kids are hearing,” she said. “It improves my conversations with them.”

“And I just think it is a blessing that Xavier would take a day to help improve our students’ knowledge outside of the classroom,” she added. “They are invest­ing in the whole child. This gave me knowledge not only about what our kids know that we don’t, but also what our kids are being exposed to.”

The conference wrapped up with the celebration of Mass. “There was just something so special about getting to come together as one Xavier community after we had each just been inspired in our own personal faith life,” said freshman Abby Globokar. “That sense of unity is something that I’ll never forget.”

Esker said the feedback about the event has been very positive. “Many parents have contacted us and shared that the door was opened by the conference to speak about some tough subjects with their child. Students have stopped in to let us know what they appreciated about the day and what future topics they would like to hear a presentation on.” She noted the conference also gave Xavier faculty an opportunity to connect with students on a faith level. They hope to plan another such conference in the future.


Xavier Catholic High School students speak during the closing Mass at the first XCEED Conference on Sept. 26. The liturgy was celebrated by Father Dustin L. Vu, who is praying at the altar to the students’ right. (Photo by Nick Ireland)