||Youth place candles at the base of a statue of Mary during a crowning ceremony on the final day of the Youth 2000 retreat held at the Bishop O’Connor Center in Madison the weekend of November 4 to 6. (Catholic Herald photo/Kat Wagner) To view or purchase photos from this event go to: madisoncatholicherald.smugmug.com
MADISON -- The Youth 2000 retreat, held for the third time in the Diocese of Madison, drew a smaller group of youth and young adults than previous years, but the reaction to the weekend of Eucharistic Adoration, Mass, Reconciliation, and talks on the faith remained high.
Previous retreats had brought in several hundred youth, and the numbers this time only hit 75 youth and about 50 adults, but Lindsay Becher, coordinator of youth and young adult ministry for the Diocese of Madison Office of Evangelization and Catechesis, said that it didn’t seem to affect the personal experience of the youth.
“I heard from some of the kids that the smaller numbers made the experience different,” she acknowledged. But overall, she said, the reactions were positive and on Sunday during the closing of the retreat many of the youth stood up to share the fact that they had been to a retreat before and still had a deepening of their faith during this retreat.
The goal of the retreat closely followed the goal of the office — that all should hear everyday a loving and gentle invitation to meet Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, in a life-changing way. Through the focus on Eucharistic Adoration and other activities, the leaders of the retreat aimed to bring youth to a place where they could acknowledge, understand, and deepen their relationship with God.
“The whole retreat is centered around the Holy Eucharist and about adoring and coming closer to Christ,” said Sister Joseph, one of the Franciscans of the Renewal, the orders of priests and Brothers and of Sisters from the Bronx, N.Y., who organize and lead the retreat in dioceses around the country.
One of the focuses during the retreat and a topic of several talks was Reconciliation. Priests were available for Confession, sitting patiently on chairs at the back on the gymnasium where the majority of the retreat took place. Youth, at any time, could seek out the sacrament if they felt urged.
“One of the ways to become closer to God is through Confession,” Sister Joseph said. “It’s something that’s very difficult for teens, for so many reasons. But it can give them the freedom to go back out into the world and bring the news to others.”
The retreat was also an opportunity to introduce or extend the experience for many of the youth with men and women who live out their vocation through the Church. In addition to the Franciscans of the Renewal, local Sisters of Charity of Our Lady, Mother of the Church were present to engage the youth in prayer, priests stopped in to offer Confession, and Bishop Robert C. Morlino celebrated Mass on the first evening of the weekend.
“I think the witness of men and women religious was so positive,” Becher said. “With so many of them being around, and not only from the Franciscans, but from the community of the Sisters from Janesville who came and helped out with the retreat, and all of the priests who were here for Confessions . . . all of that, it was so positive to be surrounded by such an example of men and women living their faith in the religious life. That alone is a powerful tool of evangelization.”
The retreat also gave youth an opportunity to see that faith was something that involved all aspects of their life.
“I think, for myself, if I had had something like this when I was younger, it would have made a really big impact,” said Sister Joseph. “To be in the presence of Jesus for 40 hours is enough to blow your mind. And the addition of the Rosary, the Divine Mercy Chaplet, the chance to go to Reconciliation, and just the time among peers . . . it shows them that it’s normal to be Catholic. It’s something beautiful; you can be joyful to be Catholic and it’s something you can bring to friends.”