By Fran Lavelle
CLINTON – The day began like a normal Saturday morning in the late winter. There was a chill in the air, but the sun was shining. The possibilities of what one can do on any given Saturday literally are endless but high school youth from around the diocese had one destination in mind, the Diocesan High School Confirmation Retreat (DHSCR). Nearly 200 young people attended the DHSCR at Camp Garaywa in Clinton. The weekend was filled with opportunities for our Confirmation candidates to grow closer to God and affirm their decision to be confirmed. In addition to the adult catechist and chaperones who accompanied the youth, a group of college students were also present to lead group activities and serve as small group leaders.
The theme for the retreat was “Called to Serve.” Leaders challenged students to consider how they are being called to serve in their homes, community and in the world. Using the example of the Holy Family, Father Rusty Vincent encouraged the youth to serve with the heart of Mary. Father Rusty reminded the youth that, “From what we are able to determine, Mary was 15-18 years old when she said ‘Yes’ to be the Mother of Jesus.” We learn by example and Mary provides us all with an example of selfless service.
The youth were asked to write a letter to someone who has modeled service and thank them for their witness.
Bishop Joseph Kopacz celebrated Mass Saturday evening. He shared with the youth how important the letters they write him really are and that he reads them all. In addition to asking to be confirmed, the letters often describe the individual journey to deepening their faith. Bishop Kopacz also encouraged the young people to use their voices to be the change in the world that we desperately need. He shared a story from his recent visit to the Holy Land about being where Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount, commonly known as the Beatitudes. In them, Jesus unveils the foundations and character of life in the Kingdom of God. Bishop Kopacz used the example of the young people in Florida who are challenging local, state and national leaders to enact sensible gun laws. “Blessed are the peacemakers,” he reminded them, “for they will be called the sons of God.”
Saturday night John Finch, a native of Pearl River, Louisiana, led the youth in praise and worship through his gift of music and song.
Sunday, Brent and Kristin Lape of Gluckstadt St. Joseph Parish shared how they were called to service. The couple met at Mississippi State University where they were both active in campus ministry. They fell in love and after college got married. The birth of their first child, Lily, totally changed the trajectory of this young couple’s lives as they came to understand Lily’s Down Syndrome. Together they began “Running Up for Downs” an annual race in metro-Jackson. They have used this journey as a platform to help spread awareness and acceptance for people with Down Syndrome within our community. They invited the young people to find something they are passionate about and use their particular gift. The youth were asked to share a service to the community that they found to be particularly meaningful.
John Finch rounded out the retreat with a talk on service to the world. He described his own journey of faith and how he was able to take ownership of his faith through Confirmation. His talk was reminiscent of a Mother Teresa quote, “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” The young people were asked to consider the ways their actions create ripples around the world. They examined international aid organizations like Catholic Relief Service which provide for the marginalized and the poor around the world.
At the end of the weekend it was quite apparent that service is at the heart of the gospel. The youth were challenged to make service an integral part of their lives going beyond building a resume for college or getting confirmed. “The Simple Path…Silence is Prayer, Prayer is Faith, Faith is Love, Love is Service, The Fruit of Service is Peace.” – Mother Teresa
(Fran Lavelle is the director of Faith Formation for the Diocese of Jackson.)