When I was a teen-ager in Catholic high school, it was mandatory to go on an annual spiritual retreat. Every spring, we set off to a Dominican retreat house, the beautiful former estate of some Pennsylvania multi-millionaire.
The first year, we demonstrated our ability to smoke on the sly, short-sheet beds, wreak havoc upon the Sisters who ran the place, and pretty well humiliate the ones who had brought us. By the second year, however, most of us had begun to develop an appreciation for the experience.
What brought this to mind was a conversation with the Catholic Youth Ministry Team of the Archdiocesan Catechetical Office: Kathleen Alonzo, Veronica Rayas and Cynthia Martinez.
These three, along with members of the Catholic Youth Ministry Advisory Board, suggest that too many of today’s Catholic youth, especially those who do not attend Catholic schools, have never had the opportunity to go away on a retreat for two or three days. They believe that young people would appreciate it. Many retreat centers would welcome them. Parents, pastors and parish youth leaders might want to consider offering the experience. Maybe a couple of parishes could collaborate.
Organizing a retreat is fairly simple. There are retreat houses in almost every one of the 10 counties of the Archdiocese. The Fall edition of Sowing Seeds, the Catholic Youth Ministry newsletter, has a complete list of places that are ready to serve the needs of young people. You can find Sowing Seeds on the Catholic Youth Ministry website: www.nyfaithformation.org/central-offices/youth-ministry/
A small suggestion: before you run to your phone or e-mail, make sure you have your parish youth on board. Involve them. Let them take the lead in organizing the retreat, selecting the venue, maybe raising some money to help defray expenses. You act as the facilitator. If they “own” the experience, they will appreciate it even more.