By Todd Brechbill
I had the privilege last week to visit the Conquest Dallas-Fort Worth group located in the Highlands School in Irving, TX. I was very impressed with what I witnessed to say the very least. The group at the Highlands school has had success over many years, but when Br. Lucio Boccacci, LC arrived in Sept 2010, it took on a whole new level. Br Lucio began by building on the momentum and tradition left behind by his predecessors who ran Conquest at the Highlands: Alvaro Pelaez, Ricardo Avalos and Matthew Reinhardt. Along with the help of Br. Manuel Reyes, LC the group has gone through a transformation this past year.
The first thing that Br. Lucio took on was the meeting atmosphere. As you can imagine, any group meeting in school classrooms is not always the ideal setting for the boys to truly live and experience the spirit of Conquest. He had a vision and wanted to offer the youth an environment where they could feel more a part of something different than school.
The third floor in the boy’s school was an abandoned area with rooms used only for storage. His goal was to transform this space into a place where the Conquest members could take ownership, to be themselves, be with their friends, and be used as a launching pad for apostolic service projects. It took several months of hard work, with the help of lots of generous people who also wanted to see this vision become a reality. Mrs. Doraliz Llamas, a mom of two Conquest members, helped Br. Lucio as an interior designer. Her son Alejandro Llamas built a snack store for the group and currently oversees it. Other parents and Conquest members also helped to clear rooms, move furniture, paint walls, and even minor construction. Finally, Conquest Alumni helped by donating paint, supplies, beds and mattresses for future retreats.
In the summer of 2011, it finally all came together. The new Conquest youth center is complete with a full kitchen, auditorium (also used as a Chapel), conference room, snack store, multimedia production room, 5 individual team meeting rooms, storage room (for sports equipment), and a complete dormitory that can house 20 boys, 2 chaperones and a Chaplain.
It was a great pleasure to visit the group and speak with some of the incredible families and boys. Some very famous family members such as Andres Williams, the father of Conquest member John Williams, was one of the original founders of Club Faro in Monterey, Mexico (equivalent to the Conquest groups here in the USA). Gustavo San Roman is also a dad in the group who was one of the original founders of the clubs in Venezuela. He also contributed time and talent to the renovation of the Conquest youth center.
Since the new youth center was finished, the group has grown in numbers and not only attracts boys at the Highlands school, but also boys from the surrounding area. They have had 5 retreats thus far, and it has brought enthusiasm and a feeling of ownership to the Conquest team leaders and members. It truly is a place where they can be comfortable, learn about authentic manhood and virtue, and dream up apostolic projects with zeal.
Br. Lucio wanted to thank the Highlands school and the board members for their support and the use of the space. His future vision is to actually host a summer camp in 2012 in the Conquest youth center. He also would like to see it made available for Challenge group activities and any other group that would benefit from the unique and very special environment.