By Abbey Schuhmann
High school juniors and seniors from across the Diocese of Jackson gathered at Camp Wesley Pines near Hazlehurst Nov. 11-13 for the fall diocesan SEARCH Retreat. SEARCH is a Catholic youth retreat that models the Cursillo retreat for adults but designed for youth in grades 11th-12th who have a strong desire to deepen their faith and relationship with Christ.
A retreat “for teens, led by teens,” SEARCH is an experience like none other with a strong focus on vocations. It engages youth in a special way and calls them to live out their Catholic faith in a bold, real, active and healthy way.
SEARCH first started in this diocese in the 1970s but interest in it declined in the 1980s. In 2003, Father Mike O’Brien and Father Frank Cosgrove approached Jackson St. Richard parishioners Ann and Jeff Cook and encouraged them to re-introduce the SEARCH retreat to the diocese.
Having lived in Austin, Texas, and participated with multiple SEARCH retreats there, the Cooks coordinated bringing in a team from Austin to lead the first SEARCH retreat in nearly 20 years for our Diocese in January 2004. The first youth staff from the diocese led the next SEARCH retreat under the leadership from volunteers, Ann and Jeff Cook in May of 2004.
During the past 13 years, the diocese has held more than 25 SEARCH retreats under the leadership of the Cooks.
Much of what happens in the retreat is kept a mystery but a few things are certain – you will have fun, you will be challenged to grow in your faith and chances are you will make a few new friends.
The retreat team is primarily made up of a youth staff from teens who have previously attended a SEARCH retreat. Once a teen attends a SEARCH retreat weekend, he or she has the opportunity to apply to staff future retreats.
The adults who are present throughout the weekend serve “behind the scenes.” It is the teens who lead this retreat. The SEARCH model really gives our youth the opportunity to demonstrate and carry out servant leadership. This retreat would not be possible without the help of adult volunteers who have served in this ministry for so many years.
We are especially grateful to Ann and Jeff Cook for continuing to serve as the volunteer, adult SEARCH coordinators. Without their dedicated service, this ministry would not be where it is today.
The SEARCH ministry is alive and well in the diocese and the SEARCH family continues to grow through each retreat.
The Office of Youth Ministry is currently looking at dates in 2017 for future SEARCH retreats. We are always looking for adults who are open to serving in the SEARCH ministry. If you are interested, contact Abbey Schuhmann, coordinator for the Office of Youth Ministry, email@example.com, 601-949-6934.
By Abbey Schuhmann