By Yvette Clairjeane
Cold wind and snow made the morning of March 2 very dreary and likely a good day to stay indoors and under the covers. Surprisingly, the weather did not deter more than 150 youth from Deanery 7 in Flatbush who gathered at Our Lady of Refuge in Brooklyn for a retreat.
The retreat’s theme, “Come to Me” reflected Jesus’ continuous message during his ministry of drawing children closer to him.
The retreat began with a greeting and prayer led by Father Saint Charles Borno, pastor of Holy Innocents and Our Lady of Refuge. Although outside was cold, inside the Church the Spirit was moving as the youth choir of Our Lady of Refuge led praise and worship with songs like “Jesus is the Rock on Which I Stand” and “Shout to the Lord.”
Attendees experienced the retreat alongside their peers and were separated into two tracks – one for junior high school students and one for high school students.
After praise and worship concluded, the junior high school youth went to the school auditorium for a group activity while the high school youth remained in the church for a talk by Father Dwayne Davis, pastor of St. Thomas Aquinas, Flatlands.
Father Davis began his talk by playing the game “Where the Wind Blows,” which helped the youth learn about the commonalities they shared. Those with similar characteristics, such as birth month, moved and sat next to each other, allowing the youth to mingle with those from other parishes.
High school freshman and parishioner at Our Lady of Refuge, Lushmere Menard attended the retreat with her confirmation class.
Challenges Facing Youth
“Father Dwayne talked about the many personal challenges that youth are facing today, particularly those associated with social media. He also shared his experiences as a young student and what led him to become a man of God,” Menard recounted.
Meanwhile, the students in the auditorium were broken up into groups of ten to listen to the day’s Gospel reading and were asked to prepare a skit based on their interpretation of the Gospel in today’s world.
In the Gospel reading (Mark 10: 13-16), Jesus told his disciples, “let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”
The group activity provided another opportunity for the youth to get to know each other and to share their faith.
While each group gave their own spin on the Gospel reading, the central theme was evident: the importance of drawing nearer to Jesus especially as they face challenges.
After an hour, the two tracks changed locations so that the junior high youth went to the church with Father Davis and the high school youth went to the school auditorium for the group activity.
By midday, evidence of the morning’s snow began to disppear as the sun shone brightly. The retreat continued with confessions in the church and lunch in the auditorium.
Many, if not, all the young people in attendance participated in the sacrament of reconciliation – a beautiful testament of their faith. During lunch, the auditorium was filled with sounds of laughter, music and dancing. Youths and adult chaperones took part in dancing to songs of praise and worship as they ate. A few even danced in their seats.
The day ended with Mass which was celebrated by Msgr. Joseph Malagreca, pastor of Holy Cross, Flatbush.
“When young Catholics gather, it is impressive,” Msgr. Malagreca said. “They bring their faith, their enthusiasm, their openness, their talents and their imagination. It was a joy to share a day of prayer with teenagers and young adults.” His prayer is “that all youth may come to Jesus!”
Roberta St. Bernard, of St. Therese of Lisieux, Flatbush, added that the “youth retreat day not only gave our youth ministry team the opportunity to fulfill our mission of responding as Christians to the needs of our young people, but also allowed our youth to share their unique gifts with the larger community.”
This retreat would not have been possible without the leadership of Msgr. Malagreca and the Deanery Committee members: Michelle Charles; Nancy Gerard; Adanna Morgan, Shirley Jeanty; Marie Rose Terlonge; Roberta St. Bernard and the volunteers who ensured that the retreat was a success.
Clairjeane is a parishioner at Our Lady of Refuge, Flatbush, and a member of the Deanery 7 youth committee.