MACON – More than 60 seventh and eighth-grade Catholics spent the weekend of Oct. 21-22 at Lake Forest Ranch participating in the inaugural diocesan middle school retreat. Youth groups came from Clinton, Greenwood, Jackson, Madison, Meridian, Pearl and Starkville.
The retreat was organized by Abbey Schuhmann, coordinator for youth ministry for the Diocese of Jackson. “In my first year in this position, I was getting lot of feedback about the need for a diocesan middle school event. More and more parishes were having active groups at that age level so they wanted an event,” she explained. “I saw it first hand at my own parish — seventh and eighth-graders were eager to be involved and wanting to do more and adults wanted things specifically age-appropriate for them,” she added.
A team from the National Evangelization Team Ministries (NET) led the retreat. NET coordinates and trains teams of young adults to travel the country for a year offering retreats. “We have had great experience with NET ministries in our diocese in recent years. They are dynamic, they provide high energy and their retreats are well balanced with fun and prayerful activities. They are young adults actively living out faith and great role models for our youth,” said Schuhmann. She pointed out that life on the road for a year is a huge sacrifice and the retreat leaders often share stories of their own faith journeys so they can inspire the students who attend.
Bridget and John Harwell brought young people from Meridian. “The facilities were awesome, setting was perfect and the spirituality was superb. The NET team’s energy was very good and our youth were extremely impressed by their testimonies,” said Bridget.
Priests from four parishes came to offer Reconciliation and when the service started, the teens jumped up to get a spot in line.
The theme for the retreat was Safety in Numbers and many of the presentations centered on the importance of friendship and community. “I was hoping it would be an opportunity for students in this age group to come together with their peers to know there are others like them on a similar faith journey. I want to acknowledge that being Catholic in Mississippi can be challenging at times, but I also want them to know there are youth all over our diocese facing these same challenges on a similar journey,” said Schuhmann