MADISON — Youth and young adults, ages 13 to 30, are invited to take part in an exciting event taking place at the Bishop O’Connor Center on March 20 to 22, 2009.
YOUTH 2000, a Eucharistic centered retreat led by religious priests, Brothers, and Sisters from the Capuchin Franciscans of the Renewal from the Bronx, N.Y., and the Community of St. John from France, is an international spiritual initiative started in 1990 in response to Pope John Paul II’s call for a “New Evangelization.”
The friars and Sisters are young, authentic, and inspirational witnesses to the Gospel. The retreats center around the Gospel of John, chapter 6, verse 35, when Jesus tells his disciples, “I am the Bread of Life.”
I had the privilege of attending a YOUTH 2000 retreat when it came to Oshkosh in early November. The weekend was an intense immersion into many beautiful traditions of the Catholic faith including the Rosary, Mass, Liturgy of the Hours, and Confession.
Stories of courageous heroes of the Church, the saints, were woven throughout the weekend. The entire retreat took place in Adoration, with Jesus in a monstrance atop a structure they called the “Burning Bush” that was set in the middle of the gymnasium.
Even throughout the night, while we retreatants slept, Eucharistic Adoration continued with volunteers from the community praying for us.
For me, the weekend inspired a greater love and devotion for Our Lady of the Rosary. For others, the weekend brought a deeper understanding of the Real Presence of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.
One of the most powerful experiences of the retreat was the healing service conducted on Saturday night, which included a beautiful Eucharistic procession.
Stevie Emmers, a high school student from Appleton, Wis., testified, “During the Eucharistic procession, after I touched the [humeral veil], I kneeled, prayed hard, and cried and then I felt, or at least I thought I felt, my [late] sister hugging me. I felt different after that, changed for the better.”
Without a doubt, Our Lord was present in that Oshkosh gymnasium.
This was a first retreat experience for Katie Collins, a sophomore from Appleton West High School. As for the reason why she went, she said, “I was at the point in my life where I wanted to give it all to God, but I wasn’t sure how to really connect with Him.”
Katie was glad she went. “You meet a lot of amazing people who, unlike your friends at school, believe in the same things you do! It was a life changing retreat for me and I would recommend it to any young adult.”
Working with youth
The retreat is open to anyone ages 13 to 30. The leaders do a great job of meeting each participant just where they are in their faith journey and inviting them to a closer relationship with Jesus Christ.
Retreatants break up by age and gender into small groups for discussion and fellowship with youth from around the diocese.
The Alpha-Omega Worship Band from St. Paul’s University Catholic Center in Madison will lead songs of praise and worship and be a further witness of young people living out their faith.
Youth participation is encouraged throughout the retreat with leaders asking youth to share testimonies, lead an International Rosary, read and serve at Mass, and assist with a Crowning of Mary.
Volunteers from the community are essential to the organization and carrying out of the YOUTH 2000 Retreat.
Adults, please consider contributing your gifts and talents in areas such as cooking, prayer team, promotions, security, set-up, and clean-up.
Edward Looney has volunteered as a chaperone on the YOUTH 2000 Retreat in Oshkosh twice. “It is a very moving experience,” he says. “When I was the age of the kids on this retreat, you would not have found me there; instead, you would have found me in juvenile detention.
“Now, as an applicant to a religious congregation of priests and Brothers, I find myself inspired by the youth who gave up a weekend to attend Youth 2000, to learn more about Jesus, the Eucharist, and the Blessed Mother. . . . attending events like YOUTH 2000 has renewed my faith in the future of the Church, and has helped me to realize the new springtime of evangelization that John Paul the Great often spoke of.”
‘A breath of fresh air’
Parents and fellow parish catechetical leaders, I highly recommend this retreat to you and your youth. Whether it is simply taking this special opportunity to step away from the distractions of our world and spend a weekend with Jesus, or providing an awesome Confirmation retreat, I can assure you of a highly relevant and effective experience.
Corrie Christiaansen, a youth minister at Holy Family Parish in Fond du Lac, calls YOUTH 2000 a “breath of fresh air.”
“As a youth minister, I have been to my share of retreats and conferences. Of course all are great and inspiring but YOUTH 2000 was very different — a good different. YOUTH 2000 is the first retreat that I could honestly define as a truly Eucharist centered retreat that is passionately Catholic and intensely Marian. Every retreat should be like this,” Christiaansen said.
She and I agreed that we enjoyed having the Franciscan Friars and Sisters there, as new voices and witnesses of the faith to our youth groups. They led the youth to the source and summit of our faith, Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, and empowered them with ways to continue practicing the faith in their homes and parishes.
Invitation from bishop
Due to such powerful results from these retreats throughout the world, Bishop Robert C. Morlino cordially and enthusiastically invites all youth to open their hearts to Christ by participating in this unique opportunity. A personal letter of invitation from Bishop Morlino to the youth can be found, along with more information and registration forms, on the diocesan youth Web site: www.madisondiocese.org/youth
You can also contact Patrick Delaney in the diocesan Office of Evangelization and Catechesis for more information or to volunteer. Contact him via e-mail at
or by calling 608-821-3160.
Alison Curtis is a youth minister at St. Bernard Parish in Madison.