Diocesan News

Diocesan Youth ‘Lock-In’ on Faith And Friends at Overnight Retreat

PROSPECT HEIGHTS — There’s a climactic scene in “The Lion King” where a conflicted and lost Simba looks into a pool of water, and his reflection becomes the face of his father, Mufasa. Mufasa then tells Simba to remember who he is, that is, the true king of the Pride Lands. 

That scene is the reason Father Dwayne Davis chose “The Lion King” as the movie to show a group of 95 Diocese of Brooklyn youths early on the morning of March 18, part of a “Youth Lock In” mini-retreat at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Flatlands, Brooklyn. 

Father Davis said the scene aligned with the event’s theme of “You Are Enough.” 

“We felt [it] reflected the theme in some way,” said Father Davis, who is the pastor of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish. “Oftentimes, we find that young people don’t think that they’re enough. … We’re enough when we’re connected to God because God is enough, and he can pour enough into us.” 

The “Youth Lock In” events have been put on since 2010 in conjunction with the diocesan Vicariate of Black Catholic Concerns Youth Leadership Ambassador Program, which aims to work with and identify opportunities for young people ages 14-18. 

In essence, it’s an overnight mini-retreat for young people in the Diocese of Brooklyn. For this past weekend’s lock-in, the 95 young people — from about 10 different parishes — stayed at St. Thomas Aquinas from 6 p.m. on Friday to 9 a.m. Saturday, partaking in different activities that fall under three Fs that the events are built around: “faith, food, and fun.” 

“It’s important for us to give them the tools that they need and make sure that they understand that the Church, too, is a place where they can have fun and be with their friends,” Father Davis said. 

Joseph Allen, a senior at Brooklyn Technical High School and a parishioner at St. Thomas Aquinas, said the evening was “a great opportunity” to “spend a night with friends and connect with [the] faith in a unique way.” 

Allen, a member of the ambassador program, added, “The balance between fun and spiritual activities was effective in my learning experience. I genuinely had fun and enjoyed every aspect of the night.” 

Jocelyn Navarro Rijo, a freshman at The Urban Assembly School for Law and Justice and a parishioner at Mary of Nazareth Parish in Brooklyn, added that she enjoyed beginning the evening “in the presence of our Lord” and then going into the activities. 

“This lock-in was my first experience, and it won’t be my last,” Navarro Rijo said. 

The event began with some free time for the young people to hang out with their friends, followed by a pizza dinner. The group then had Holy Hour and confession, followed by more free time, battle of the sexes competitions, and some other activities before a midnight Mass. 

Father Davis noted that it’s always “really beautiful to see all of the young people so attentive,” especially at the Holy Hour and the Mass. After Mass, the children had their second meal — barbecue — before they got into a battle of the sexes-style karaoke activity. 

After all of that, by 3:15 a.m., the group sat down to watch the movie, around which time the young people had the option to take a nap. If they did, wake up was 6:45 a.m. to “praise and worship music,” according to Father Davis. 

They started their morning with the Stations of the Cross at 7:30 a.m. before they concluded with a big breakfast of pancakes, eggs, bacon, and other morning staples. 

Father Davis said overall, the entire night went great. He summed things up from the perspective of one of the young people who didn’t want to be there at first but ultimately had a blast. 

“One young man whose mother brought him did not want to be there,” Father Davis said. “If we had given him the chance to go home, he would’ve, but in the middle of the night, I saw him, and he was having so much fun, really enjoying himself and wanting to be there. 

“So you can see the difference, and you see them have that experience.” 

The lock-in events have had as many as 150 young people participate, but this past weekend’s 95 was the most since the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020. 

“Our young people really enjoy it so much that they really want us to be able to do it even more often,” Father Davis said, “which I’m not young enough to be able to do it too often.” 

To that end, Father Davis said they won’t do another this year because “two in one year is a little much, especially on the volunteers,” adding that he’s “still recovering from the weekend.” 

What they’ll do instead is have a weekend retreat for diocesan youth this fall, which he said will likely become the normal routine — a lock-in during the spring, followed by a fall retreat.