Blessings abounded at our 2014 Fall Retreat last weekend! I have been deeply inspired by the witness of the 23 high school students from St. John Neumann who chose to spend the weekend praying, growing in their faith, and seeking God's work in their lives.
Please read on to learn about the many different activities that took place!
Our first session was titled "START"! Chris talked about the difference between having the POTENTIAL to accomplish something and having the ABILITY to accomplish it. Using the "Sofa to Sainthood" theme we broke open how sainthood, like marathon running, requires not just a large goal but also daily and consistent habits. We all have the potential to be saints, but we need to nurture the ability.
The scriptural theme for the retreat was from Hebrews 12: "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith!" Participants were inited to reflect on what they wanted from their faith, and what small steps they would have to start taking regularly to achieve these goals.
In the second session Patty, the youth minister at Holy Family, talked about the need to stop certain behaviors in our lives that are keeping us from reaching our spiritual goal of sainthood. Like an athlete who must stop eating junk food and binge watching Netflix in order to run a marathon, a saint has to cut out the sins that keep him or her from growing stronger spiritually! During this session the teens also took part in an Examination of Conscience to begin preparing themselves for the Sacrament of Reconciliation later in the evening.
Mike Chamberland, youth minister at St. Edith, presented our third session titled "STAY". Mike talked about how there are times in our lives where it may be easier to walk away from something but growth and reward can come from staying. He shared that he often wanted to quit boy scouting when he was younger but his parents encouraged him to stick with it and he was blessed by his experience. Mike also talked about the importance of staying in God's presence and set the participants up to get the most out of their time in Eucharistic Adoration later in the evening.
The final session of the retreat was called "GO". Chris talked about there being situations in which it might be easier to stay put but true reward will only come from going away. Using the example of Abraham who was called to leave home and become "a stranger in a strange land" and of Peter who wanted to remain on the mountain after the Transfiguration to show how often God requires us to move. Just as there are situations that God calls us to stay in and grow through there are also situations that God asks us to grow away from. At the end of the session each participant made their own growth plan and wrote to their youth minister asking for specific help being accountable to when they needed to START, STOP, STAY, and GO in their own lives.
On the first night of the retreat each participant, including the adults, was given the name of one retreatant to secretly pray for and support during the weekend. Participants were told that it was their responsibility to make sure that their secret buddy had a good experience of retreat and growed in holiness during the weekend. Chris joked that even upon reaching the Pearly Gates St. Peter would be asking them where their secret buddy was. On the last day of retreat participants were asked to "reveal" themselves to their secret buddy and to also give them an affirmation. One participant commented that she thought all of the participants must have been her secret buddy because everyone kept being so nice to her.
I know that retreats take a substantial investment of your teenager's time and your family's resources. I also know how precious time at home with your teenager is during the high school years when they are pulled in so many different directions and preparing to leave home for college. I want you to know that I am incredibly proud and thankful that your family made the investment in this weekend-- I am confident that it will bear fruit in their life.
Teenagers are sometimes overwhelmed by the experience of retreat and not always able to share fully with you when they get home. Give them time and be patient and they will share with you-- we also spoke with them about the importance of sharing their retreat experiences with parents and siblings, so I hope they take our advice! The information about the sessions contained above will give you some framework through which to understand their experience, especially if it comes at you in bits and pieces.
As always, please contact me if you would like to know more about this or future retreat experiences!