Called To Serve: Confirmation retreat welcomes 200 youth

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.)

Diocesan Confirmation retreat builds community

Teens play an icebreaker called ‘people bingo.’


CLINTON — More than 160 young people from across the diocese gathered at Camp Garaway for the diocesan Confirmation Retreat Feb 6-7. In small inset, a poster identifies the ‘pink doves’ group. The small groups gave themselves names based on a color assigned to (Photos by Melissa Smalley)

By Fran Lavelle
CLINTON – What do you get when you mix the Holy Spirit, enthusiastic high school students, dedicated catechists, faith filled college students, an engaging speaker and a beautiful weekend at Camp Garaywa in Clinton? An awesome diocesan high school Confirmation Retreat! The retreat focused on how we are called to service in our families, our community and the world. The Confirmation students were challenged to look for opportunities for service from the smallest acts of kindness.
The retreatants came from parishes of all sizes and demographics from around the diocese Feb. 6-7. Gathered tog

ether, the youth beautifully represented the reality of our Catholic faith in the Diocese of Jackson. All together more than 160 youth and adults came together in to pray, reflect, listen and prepare for the Sacrament of Confirmation.
Our speaker was Cari Williams, a youth minister and retreat leader from the Diocese of Alexandria, La. Father Rusty Vincent served as the spiritual director for the weekend. We were blessed to have Catholic students from Mississippi State serve as small group leaders.


Father Rusty Vincent, spiritual director for the retreat, in the LSU hat, helps with an activity.

On Saturday evening, retreatants had an opportunity to go to Reconciliation and Sunday morning Bishop Joseph Kopacz celebrated Mass. Recognizing the importance of the sacramental life of the Church helped them better understand the value of completing the sacraments of Initiation through Confirmation. The youth appreciated the opportunity to spend time with Bishop Kopacz. The six priests who came out to hear confessions include Msgr. Elvin Sunds, Fathers Jeffrey Waldrep, Jose Sanchez, Joseph Le, Jason Johnston and Vincent. It was an awesome sight to see nearly every student and adult present to take advantage of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Asked what they would take away from the retreat many of the young people commented that they recognized a need to spend more time with God. They also saw what the

larger Catholic Church in our diocese looks like, especially for smaller parishes with 2-3 students in the Confirmation program.
Making new friends was a natural by-product of the weekend. I hope they continue to pray for one another and reflect on the message of service. I invite you to pray for all the young people in our diocese who are being prepared for the Sacrament of Confirmation. They need our prayers as much as we need their full and active participation in the Church. Confirmation is not Catholic graduation. It is only the beginning of a wonderful life of faith, service and friendship.
(Fran Lavelle is the Director of Faith Formation for the Diocese of Jackson.)