The 2013 Fall Retreat was a huge success! We traveled to Camp Ohiyesa for a weekend away with young people and the adult teams from St. John Neumann and Holy Family, Novi. On behalf of the adults from both parishes, we want to thank the numerous parishioners, parents, and others who prayed for us, supported us, and make the weekend possible!
Below is a summary of the retreat theme and activities. We hope that this gives our parish communities an idea of what happens on a youth ministry retreat and helps parents speak with their young people about their experiences on the retreat and the impact that it had on their lives!
The theme of our retreat was Christian Ninja Warriors. If you aren’t familiar with the TV show “American Ninja Warriors”, it is an obstacle course competition where elite athletes from many different sports compete in near-impossible physical challenges in the hope of winning $500,000. Season 5 of the show just completed and to date no athlete in the United States has finished the course.
As Christian Ninja Warriors, we spent the weekend looking at the many obstacles that get in the way of us living the Christian Life. The scripture verse we focused on during the week was James 1:2-4:
"Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials,for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. And let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing."
In Session 1, Chris talked about how the Christian Life is NOT the challenge—we were made to live the Christian Life and when we choose to live it we are most fully alive! During the session we looked at where some of the challenges to living the Christian Life come from: ourselves, our culture, people in our communities, and the devil. The session ended with the assurance that God would give us the strength, the tools, and the courage to overcome these obstacles if we are willing to reach out to Him.
On Saturday morning, Jim and Patty from Holy Family talked about the power of personal and communal prayer for overcoming obstacles in the way of living the Christian Life (Session 2). Then Kate from SJN helped us to explore other sources of strength that can help us overcome these obstacles—the Saints, the Sacraments, the writings of the Holy Father, our Church communities, our families, Sacred Scripture, and more (Session 3)! Each young person was also given a folder of resources to help them begin incorporating more of these into their daily lives, the folders contained: Scripture verses relevant to living the Christian Life, short biographies of Saints, prayer ideas, and faith activities to try at home with their families.
On Saturday afternoon we participated in a challenge course and a zip line facilitated by the Camp Ohiyesa Staff. The staff talked to us about how growth happens each time we step outside of our comfort zones. Not all of the young people went down the zip line, but many who were afraid of heights chose to step out of their comfort zones by trying on the harnesses or standing on the 30ft high launch platform.
On Saturday evening Fr. Ron Richards came to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation. He led the group through a reflection on the song “Demons” by Imagine Dragons and explained that everyone has obstacles even though we don’t always show them to one another. Fr. Ron reiterated to the teens (and the adults) that God does not give up on His children, and that although overcoming obstacles is a life-long process, God, in his infinite love does not tire of helping us (Session 4).
Later on Saturday evening, David and Annie from Holy Family led us in worship during Eucharistic Adoration. The teens were invited to “put into practice” what they had learned about prayer during the weekend, by praying with the adult team members and asking that God help them overcome their obstacles! It was a very powerful evening, and although the kids were exhausted from a busy day it was obvious that they were giving it their all!
On Sunday Morning, Amanda from Holy Family helped us to understand what “perfection” means in terms of living the Christian life (Session 5). She also broke down many different areas of a young person’s life (family, school, peer relationships, interior life) and helped the teens to list simple daily decisions that they could make to perfect themselves in those areas. The session ended with each teen filling out a “Training Plan” Commitment Form listing how they plan to live as a Christian Ninja Warrior after the retreat. Some teens opted to give their cards to the adult team members to be mailed to them in 2014.
The final activity of the retreat was a Mass celebrated by Fr. Beto of Holy Family. Fr. Beto encouraged the young people to keep alive the Spirit that had been instilled in them during the weekend, and spoke of the importance of living our lives alongside Jesus Christ.
I hope this quick summary helps you to understand what we did on the Fall Retreat. If you have any questions, or would like additional information to help you process this experience with your teenager, please don’t hesitate to contact me! Thanks for sharing your teenager with us, and thank you for your continued prayers!